Compares Obstructionist Senate to Restless Kids on a Road Trip
Washington, DC - Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, took to the Senate floor in support of an amendment to hold politicians in Washington accountable and stop the partisan games by eliminating ‘secret holds' in the Senate. ‘Secret holds' allow Senators to unaccountably and anonymously block bills and nominations in the Senate, and bring the nation's business to a halt.
The amendment, introduced by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would prohibit senators from submitting a hold or an objection on a motion to proceed unless the senator submits the objection in writing for the Congressional Record no later than two days after initial submission. The Secretary of the Senate is required to keep a record of notices of intent to object.
"Quite a few of us in the Senate have young daughters, young kids that are familiar with the ups and downs of a long car ride heading on vacation," said Bennet. "The first hour always seems to go pretty well, full of excitement about where everybody's headed. But it isn't long before that excitement turns to restlessness and that restlessness turns to secretly doing everything they can to bother their siblings just for the sake of doing it. Every time you turn around they stop and smile and claim their innocence. It never occurred to me that that experience would actually prepare me to come to the United States Senate."
The amendment mirrors an initiative that is part of Bennet's Plan for Washington Reform that would put an end to anonymous holds, place time limits on holds, and create a requirement that, after two days, holds must be bipartisan to remain legitimate.
For video of the full floor speech, please click here.
Full text of the floor speech is included below:
Madam President, I'm joining my colleagues today in support of the effort that Senator Wyden and Senator Grassley have led to end the corrosive practice of the secret hold. This is a reform that is needed and cannot wait.
I've been in Washington for only about a year, but it didn't take that long to realize our government needs to fundamentally change the way it does business. Coloradans deserve a government that works for them. They're tired of the petty partnership in Washington. They want their elected officials to listen and address their day-to-day concerns. I cannot think of a worse example of this dysfunction than the secret hold. It is undemocratic and it's hurting our economy.
Quite a few of us in the Senate, the Chairman and I, have young daughters, young kids that are familiar with the ups and downs of a long car ride heading on vacation. The first hour always seems to go pretty well, full of excitement about where everybody's headed. But it isn't long before that excitement turns to restlessness and that restlessness turns to secretly doing everything they can to bother their siblings just for the sake of doing it. Every time you turn around they stop and smile and claim their innocence. It never occurred to me that that experience would actually prepare me to come to the United States Senate.
Countless nominations make their way to the floor. Senators make speeches about the importance of doing the country's business, appearing motivated to get the job done, to get the American people's work done. But when the cameras are off, they use the secret hold to bring this progress to a stop. Since I've been here, I've seen nominees and bipartisan legislation held up for weeks only to pass with 97 or 98 votes all to score political points and waste the American people's time and the American people's money.
Earlier this year, we spent months working to reform health care. We spent a lot of time under the Chairman's leadership trying to fix Wall Street. Madam President, it's past time we fixed the way Washington works as well. Congress must stop living under a glass dome.
The Wyden-Grassley amendment is simple. It requires any Senator seeking to hold up the nation's business to publicly announce his or her hold. All holds should be in writing, made public for the other 99 of us, and most important, for the American people, so they can render their own judgment.
And while I support this amendment, I have legislation that would go even further. My legislation would not only end secret holds as this one does, but also would require that any hold be bipartisan or else it expires after two legislative days. All holds-public or private-would expire in 30 days. At that point, the pending business would be ready to be considered on the Senate floor.
The Senate was designed to be the greatest deliberative body on the world, so let's have the debate and put an end to these secretive attempts to prevent debate. I once again want to thank Senators Wyden and Grassley for their leadership and look forward to the passage of this amendment. I also want to recognize the great work that our colleague from Missouri, Claire McCaskill has done bringing this legislation to this point. And, with that, Madam President, I yield the floor.