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.
June 19, 2010; 5:04 PM ET
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