Secret 'Holds' in the Senate

Hold it. If a US senator wants to block legislative action, be it on a bill, or a political appointment, he or she should have the conviction to do it publicly, not by the time-worn tradition of secret "holds."

This year, especially, such holds (which, by the way, are nowhere to be found in the Senate rules, let alone in the Constitution) again are wreaking havoc on presidential nominees and the ability to move legislation forward.

A hundred years ago, holds were used as a courtesy so a senator could buy time to be better informed on a bill or so a scheduling conflict could be ironed out. No problem with that, or even with the two weeks of delay that became the norm for such holds over time. Holds also have been used as tit-for-tat political bargaining chips. Nothing inherently wrong with that, either. But anonymous holds?

Today, holds can be put in place indefinitely. And they've transmogrified into ways senators can keep their names hidden from what they may see as potentially embarrassing positions.

Now, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee has been asked by two senators (again) to end the secrecy around holds. Sens. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa and Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon thought they had the problem licked in 1999. But the Senate flip-flopped on the issue.

Even if just a few senators engage in this practice, it's enough to retard legislative action, erode public confidence, and perpetuate unnecessary secrecy. Better for the 100 distinguished individuals serving the public in the Senate to let more light shine on their actions.

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