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One insane Senate procedure used to preserve another insane Senate procedure

You know about secret holds, right? Where a senator can block consideration of an item without publicly revealing that he or she is the one blocking consideration of that item? Yesterday afternoon, Ron Wyden and Chuck Grassley were all set to bring a bipartisan amendment to the floor that would end the practice, or at least try to, by attaching language to the financial-regulation bill that would kill off secret holds.

Then Jim DeMint stood up.

Secret holds are just one of many insane Senate traditions that can be used to impede progress. In an effort to preserve them, DeMint used another. He attached a "secondary amendment" to the Wyden/Grassley amendment. Now, if you voted for the amendment to end secret holds, you'd also be voting for an amendment establishing a border fence. Democrats obviously weren't interested in that. At the same time, Republicans were afraid of seeming like they'd voted against a border fence, particularly now that DeMint has taken to intervening in Republican primaries left and right (or, I guess, right and righter). Wyden had to withdraw the amendment, and he was not happy.

DeMint's argument, as I understand it, was that the Grassley/Wyden amendment was non-germane, and if they got to offer non-germane amendments, he wanted to get to offer non-germane amendments, too. And so it goes in the world's greatest deliberative body.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 14, 2010; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Undoubtedly, the world's greatest deliberative body... HA!

Posted by: mawillits | May 14, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It's so heartening to know that the GOP senators hold themselves to the high logical standards of elementary school children. "They got to do it, so WE'RE gonna do it, too!" And all in the service of preserving the tools of obstruction in the Senate.

Posted by: Leanne_BWN | May 14, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

As an Oregonian, I'm proud to have Ron Wyden as one of our Senators. If Jim Demint were my senator, I would be forming (or joining) a group to get him kicked out of office. Go get 'em Ron!!

Posted by: williams6311 | May 14, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Wait, you mean you can attach a secondary amendment to an amendment without the original amendment author's approval or some kind of vote? Utter nonsense! My disgust with Senate procedures and our alleged "leaders" grows deeper every day.

Posted by: onewing1 | May 14, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Wyden seems to get stiffed by procedure a lot.

Posted by: adamiani | May 14, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse


Sorry for the caps, but, Ezra, I really wish you'd explain under what conditions DeMint can attach secondary amendments to someone else's primary amendments. Propose them, sure. But I take you to mean that he did it without support of others.

I mean, with your statement that one bad tactic (poison pill secondary amendments) is being used to support another (anonymous holds), can't you explain the secondary amendment process a bit more?

Posted by: blsdaniel | May 14, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I agree w/ blsdaniel -- this kind of thing really confuses me. If one Senator can really unilaterally make his poison pill amendment a real threat that others have to deal with, how does anything ever get done at all? This implies the Senate is always basically working under conditions of unanimity, which I know can't be the case.

Posted by: NS12345 | May 15, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

right!!! the world's most deliberative body. lol. need repeating lol

Posted by: Beleck31 | May 15, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh, boo-hoo-hoo, Ezra.

Mean ol' Jimmy forced a crowd of demoratz into a political corner- how damned UNFAIR of him LOL.

Posted by: fourbuttons2003 | May 15, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

why I moved from South Carolina and am a former repuglican... racist insanity.

Posted by: Geopolitics101 | May 16, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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