Casey: End Secret Holds Blocking Legislation and Nominees

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today called for an end to a Senate practice that allows senators to secretly block bills and nominees.  

“The number of stalled bills and nominations because of secret holds is proof that we must fix the Senate rules,” said Senator Casey.  “Transparency is needed so those responsible for holding up action can be held accountable and this obstruction can end.”

Despite measures passed as part of ethics reform legislation enacted in 2007 to require senators who want to place a hold on bills and nominations to be transparent about their objections, senators continue to circumvent the rules and file anonymous holds.

Senator Casey today joined a group of senators pledging to not place secret holds and calling upon Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to end the practice and force senators to give a public explanation of why they are blocking a certain piece of legislation or a nomination.

Approximately 80 nominations are being blocked anonymously and without explanation. These nominees are largely non-controversial and were voted out of committee without opposition.

The full text of the letter sent to Senators Reid and McConnell is below.

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.