If there were an up-or-down vote in the Senate on whether to continue the pernicious practice of secret holds, the only suspense would involve whether anyone would dare to vote against this abuse. The difficulty, however, is obtaining that vote. Currently, the chief obstacle is Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who has been blocking the efforts of Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa to bring a little sunshine to Senate gridlock.
Five times in the past few weeks, Mr. DeMint has blocked a vote on the Wyden-Grassley amendment to curb secret holds, mostly through surrogates objecting on his behalf. On one occasion last week, however, Mr. DeMint at least bothered to explain his obstruction - although the reason he gave conflicted with what his spokesman had told us earlier.
When the Wyden-Grassley secret-holds amendment was offered on the floor during the debate on financial reform, Mr. DeMint torpedoed it by tacking on an unrelated provision requiring completion of the Mexican border fence. His spokesman, Wesley Denton, said Mr. DeMint added his proposal to the "Democrat amendment" because he had been told no amendments unrelated to the financial reform bill were being considered. After checking with the senator, Mr. Denton said Mr. DeMint supported ending secret holds. However, he noted, "the American people are much more concerned about border security than about Senate procedure."
for a vote. Mr. DeMint said he "will not support" the secret-holds amendment without the Coburn-McCaskill amendment.
Under the Wyden-Grassley amendment, holds would still be available to senators who want to block a pending nominee or piece of legislation. They would simply have to put their names to them, not hide under a cloak of anonymity.
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