Bennet, Udall Call for End to "Secret Holds"?

Washington, DC-U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today continued their call to reform Washington by calling for an end to secret holds that allow Senators to unaccountably and anonymously block bills and nominations in the Senate, and ultimately bring the nation's business to a halt.

Bennet and Udall, along with several of their colleagues, wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to stop permitting secret holds. Bennet and Udall denounced secret holds as undemocratic and just another of Washington's tired political games in a speech on the senate this week.

"The American people are reading their papers and watching their televisions and wondering what is going on in Washington," said Bennet, whose Plan for Washington Reform includes an end to secret holds. "And nothing frustrates them more than politicians holding up the people's business with ridiculous Washington rituals like secret holds. I, for one, have never placed a secret hold in the Senate, and I never will. Washington has become wrought with needless partisanship and political gridlock that's preventing efforts to make real progress on behalf of the American people."

"We have almost 80 executive branch nominations floundering because of secret holds, and the failure to confirm these nominees means important jobs affecting everything from national security to our economic well-being are not being done," Udall said. "There is simply no justification to hold bills or nominations in secret - especially indefinitely. I have pledged not to do so because I believe that if a Senator has a reason to hold a nomination he or she should make it known and be prepared to defend and explain their reasoning. That's what debate is all about, that's what should be expected from the world's most deliberative body, and that's why I'm calling for an end to this practice."

Below is the text of Bennet and Udall's letter to Leaders Reid and McConnell.

Dear Leader Reid and Leader McConnell,

We the undersigned Senators hereby pledge that we will not place secret holds on legislation or nominations.

We further call upon you to bring an end to the practice of permitting secret "holds" on legislation and nominations for those Senators who are unprepared to make the same pledge. While we deeply respect and appreciate the importance of tradition in this institution, we believe the practice of the secret hold has no rightful place in the Senate or in an open and transparent democracy. When a member of the Senate wishes to hold legislation or a nomination, that Senator owes to this body and, more importantly, to the American public a full explanation. The Senate endorsed this principle in Section 512 of S.1, passed by a vote of 96-2 on January 18, 2007.

As you know, S.1 has failed in practice to end the use of secret holds. We, therefore, urge you to promptly consider further changes to the Senate rules in order to bring a clear and definitive end to secret holds on legislation or a nomination. We stand ready to work with you on such a rule change, as long advocated for by Senators Wyden and Grassley, the leaders of a decade-long effort to eliminate secret holds in the Senate. We applaud their work and believe it must now be pursued to its conclusion.

Again, in making this request, we pledge that we will not place secret holds on legislation or a nomination.

Cc: Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules
Senator Robert Bennett, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Rules
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Charles Grassley