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Senators pledge to end secret holds

Updated: 6:00 p.m.
By Dan Eggen
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Saturday that she has secured enough votes to end the Senate's longstanding practice of allowing the use of anonymous holds to block nominations.

In an announcement on Twitter, McCaskill said Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had agreed to support the effort, giving her the 67 senators necessary to change Senate rules. "First battle won!" McCaskill wrote. "Now gotta get a vote."

A letter from McCaskill calling for an end to the practice has 66 signatures, according to spokeswoman Laura Myron, including nine Republicans, with only Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) opposed on the Democratic side. The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has agreed to support the move if McCaskill could muster the votes.

"He strongly supports Senator McCaskill's efforts and will work with her to schedule a vote as quickly as possible," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

McCaskill is scheduled to testify next week in front of the Senate rules committee, which would have to sign off before the effort could proceed.

The use of secret holds has enraged lawmakers of both parties over the years, allowing the minority to hold up presidential nominations with no public admission by the intervening senator. Republicans have been particularly aggressive in their use of holds during the Obama administration, including a widely criticized move by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) earlier this year that stalled 70 appointments.

Even if McCaskill's proposal is adopted, the use of holds would hardly disappear: Many senators proudly claim credit when they block a nomination, often hoping to gain a concession on some unrelated issue. The ability of a single senator to implement such holds would be unaffected by the rules change.

By Dan Eggen  |  June 19, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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The better to allow the Progressives to shove radical nominees down our throats while they still can.
[For a light hearted take on our present peril]

Posted by: libertyatstake | June 19, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Does she seriously think the senate is going to pass something which will reduce their individual power and influence to screw with the system? 'secret holds' now that is pretty powerful stuff. I would like to put a secret hold on a nominee if I was a senator.

Posted by: tbrown17 | June 19, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Yep, good news. Watch the Senators try to get around it somehow.

Like BP, no?

Always find a way to "skirt the law"...
It's the new mantra..

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | June 19, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

This is good news. The Senate, with its secret holds and its--I believe, unique, unlimited filibuster, breakable by only a super-majority cloture vote--has become, to be homely about it, a potato in the US tailpipe, stalling decent government. Getting rid of secret holds is a step toward fixing this. Beyond that, since when was it ever good for a republic to have senators who could, like cockroaches, do their business in secret.

Posted by: klakey1 | June 19, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

YES! More transparency!

Posted by: Joallen8 | June 19, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

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