Breaking: At long last, Wyden wins fight to end secret holds in the U.S. Senate

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Just a few moments ago, Senator Ron Wyden's resolution to end secret holds passed the Senate by a vote of 92 to 4. Wyden has been fighting secret holds for well over a decade now.

Here's what I wrote last May, when the last major action occurred:

The "secret hold" is one of the most bizarre and frustrating aspects of life in the Senate. Imagine, for a moment, that you've worked on a bill for years, developing the policy, finding supporters, working through the committees. And when it comes time to bring it to a vote, you're informed by your party's leader that - sorry - but another Senator has put a "secret hold" on your bill. You can't get a vote, and you can't even find out who to go talk to about it.

Senator Wyden has been working to end secret holds - partnered with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and supported by a wide bipartisan coalition of Senators (many of them new to the Senate.) Thursday looked to be the day when he'd finally get a vote to end secret holds.

But at the last minute, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) - the "Waterloo" guy - introduced an amendment to Wyden's secret-hold rule. A thoughtful addition to Wyden's proposal? Of course not. It was a controversial item on border security. Designed entirely to derail Wyden's bid to end secret holds.

Wyden wasn't happy - and vowed to "come back again to my post again and again and again" to change the way the Senate does business.

Of course, the overwhelming vote to end secret holds came about as a result of a deal between the Rs and Ds that avoided a constitutional showdown over the filibuster.

And while many of us are disappointed that the silent filibuster will continue plague our democracy, the end of the secret hold is an important and meaningful reform.

There's a lesson here for reformers: If you want to achieve modest but important reforms, propose and push for reforms that opponents will see as radical. Build enough support, and what previously seemed an impossible reach becomes an acceptable compromise.

That's an obvious negotiating tactic, and yet too often, it seems that folks - especially on the Democratic side - start at the "acceptable compromise" position, and then slide back to an unacceptable place.

Congratulations to Senator Wyden. Ending secret holds is a good and important thing, and it's good to see his long and previously lonely fight carry the day.

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    Congratulations to Senator Wyden. A big step forward.

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    This filibuster reform is turning out to be a bust. But this provision eliminating secret holds is a big step toward accountability and exposure of obstructionism.

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    You hit the nail on the head, Kari. For years no one would defend the secret holds publicly, they just wouldn't get rid of them. But when faced with a serious threat to the filibuster, they were suddenly eager to throw the secret holds under the bus.

    I'd say give the basket to Wyden and an assist to Merkley.

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      And call foul on the four tea-bagger Republican senators who voted to keep the secret hold: DeMint (R-SC) Ensign (R-NV) Lee (R-UT) Paul (R-KY)

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    Yet another reason why I am proud to have Ron Wyden as my Senator.

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    Hurrah for Ron Wyden. Our representatives are supposed to be elected to "represent" us in making many decisions in Congress. The "games" the Republicans play in order to hold power sidesteps the intent of being there.

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    Thank you for your persistence, Senator. I'm proud to have voted for you again.

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