Press Release of Senator Wyden

Wyden/Grassley Lead Bipartisan Effort to End Senate Secret Holds

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate’s leading bipartisan voices for ending secret holds introduced legislation today that would make it even harder for individual senators to secretly obstruct the legislative process. For more than a decade, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley have fought to eliminate secret holds and in 2007 a modified version of their proposal was included in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.

In introducing the “Secret Holds Elimination Act” today, both Senators argued that the current rule does not go far enough and that it is “time for the Senate to end secret holds once and for all.”

“This is about fundamental accountability and fairness. If Senators feel strongly enough about an issue that they are going to take the extreme step of blocking a nomination or a piece of legislation, then they should have the courage to take responsibility for their actions and explain why. The bottom line is that if you can’t make a good public case for why you are doing something, you shouldn’t be doing it,” said Wyden. “It’s far past time that the Senate stop operating in the shadows and let sunlight do its job. This legislation ensures that no amount of procedural stalling will stop Senate holds from being made public quickly.”

“For far too long, secret holds have been a staple of the Senate and there’s no question that both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the current abuses,” said Grassley. “The previous iteration of our legislation was so watered down in the final version that I stated at the time it was bound to be abused and ignored. It appears that our colleagues have finally taken notice, and maybe now we can make some progress in making holds transparent and accountable.”

The Secret Holds Elimination Act would eliminate a Senator’s ability to indefinitely hold legislation in secret by requiring Senators to submit their holds to leadership in writing and to publically disclose all holds within two days whether or not the bill or nomination has been brought to the floor for consideration. Leadership will only honor holds that they have in writing and that comply with the two day rule. While the current provision require Senators to disclose their holds after six days, the holding period has proven too long to be effective and because this requirement is triggered only when the bill is brought to the floor for consideration, it is possible for Senators to indefinitely block legislation from reaching the floor without ever disclosing that they are doing it much less why.

Both Senators Wyden and Grassley have a long-standing practice of making all of their holds public by placing formal statements announcing and explaining their holds in the Congressional Record.

Source: Office of Sen. Wyden

[Congressional Record: April 27, 2010 (Senate)]
[Page S2711]


  Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Mr. Grassley) submitted the following
resolution; which was:

                              S. Res. 502



       Rule VII of the Standing Rules of the Senate is amended by
     adding at the end the following:
       ``7. (a) The majority and minority leaders of the Senate or
     their designees shall recognize a notice of intent of a
     Senator who is a member of their caucus to object to
     proceeding to a measure or matter only if the Senator--
       ``(1) submits the notice of intent in writing to the
     appropriate leader or their designee and grants in the notice
     permission for the leader or designee to object in the
     Senator's name; and
       ``(2) not later than 2 session days after the submission
     under clause (1), submits for inclusion in the Congressional
     Record and in the applicable calendar section described in
     subparagraph (b) the following notice:
       `` `I, Senator ___, intend to object to proceeding to ___,
     dated ___.'
       ``(b) The Secretary of the Senate shall maintain for both
     the Senate Calendar of Business and the Senate Executive
     Calendar a separate section entitled `Notices of Intent to
     Object to Proceeding'. Each section shall include the name of
     each Senator filing a notice under subparagraph (a)(2), the
     measure or matter covered by the calendar that the Senator
     objects to, and the date the objection was filed.
       ``(c) A Senator may have an item relating to that Senator
     removed from a calendar to which it was added under
     subparagraph (b) by submitting for inclusion in the
     Congressional Record the following notice:
       `` `I, Senator ___, do not object to proceeding to ____,
     dated ____.'.''.