Harry Reid ignores Ron Wyden's hold on Bush nominee for Interior; outrage ensues

In the U.S. Senate, the leadership typically respects the prerogative to place a "hold" on legislation or nominees. Since March, Senator Ron Wyden has had a hold on the nomination of Lyle Laverty to an assistant Secretary of the Interior post. Wyden's hold was meant to pressure the Interior Department to address ethical problems, including disregarding scientific evidence in decision-making.

But on Monday, while Wyden was at OHSU with his wife and their brand-new baby twins, Senator Harry Reid brought the nomination of Laverty to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Without Wyden on the floor to muster an objection to the unanimous consent request, Laverty was approved by voice vote.

From the Denver Post:

"I am fuming," said Scott Silver, co-founder of Wild Wilderness, an Oregon forest advocacy group. "If an effort was made to go around Wyden, knowing that he was with his wife in the hospital just becoming a father of twins, that is truly shameful." ...

Wyden's office was notified Monday of the call for a vote, "and it was clear that Sen. Wyden had not lifted the hold," said his chief of staff, Josh Kardon.

The Associated Press also has coverage.

Local blog Witigonen raises an objection as well:

Of course, the real story isn't that Laverty is a questionable choice (though he is). It's not even that Harry Reid yet again completely caved to Bush, which is becoming an all too familiar tale. It's that Reid went out of his way to go around an upstanding Democratic senator who had legitimate concerns. This is yet another example of Reid ignoring a hold and just going along, doing whatever the Administration wants. What. A. Jackass.


  • Bpaul (unverified)

    Well, I called his Las Vegas office and talked to a staffer there. I asked for a statement or explanation of any kind for this action. He suggested I call the D.C. office. I left a message there.

    Here are all his contact numbers and addresses if you should choose to do the same. I think a flood of Oregonian messages, letters, and emails to his offices would be a nice touch.


    Carson City 600 East William Street, #302 Carson City, NV 89701 Phone: 775-882-7343 / Fax: 775-883-1980

    Las Vegas Lloyd D. George Building 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Suite 8016 Las Vegas, NV 89101 Phone: 702-388-5020 / Fax: 702-388-5030

    Reno Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building 400 South Virginia Street, Suite 902 Reno, NV 89501 Phone: 775-686-5750 / Fax: 775-686-5757

    Rural Nevada Outreach Contact Matt Tuma Phone: 775-686-5750 / Fax: 775-686-5757

    Washington 528 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 Phone: 202-224-3542 / Fax: 202-224-7327 Toll Free for Nevadans: 1-866-SEN-REID (736-7343) -Restricted to calls originating from area codes 775 and 702

    Reid Newsroom Sen. Reid’s Nevada Press Office 202-224-9521 (for inquires about Nevada issues or from Nevada media). Senate Democratic Communications Center 202-224-2939

  • naschkatze (unverified)

    If a Democratic nominee other than Hillary Clinton wins the presidential election, forcing Harry Reid out of the Senate Majority Leadership should be a first priority. (I exclude Clinton because Reid's son is working for her in Nevada, and I wouldn't see her disposed to force Reid out.) Not only has Reid been incompetent in general, but he is thwarting the actions of our Democratic representatives. It is particularly disgusting how he has gone about it too, acting while Wyden was in Oregon for the birth of his children. Sneaky! He is also threatening to remove the hold that Senator Dodd placed on FISA immunity for the telecoms. He is behaving very much like another Lieberman in the pocket of the Bush administration, and one has to wonder what hold they have over him.

  • Bpaul (unverified)

    I forgot to add:

    What a freaking jerk.

  • oregonj (unverified)

    That is pure outrage - and even worse, at the same time he is slamming Wyden while he is celebrating with his family, Reid is respecting Hutchinson's hold on taking the Energy Bill to Conference Committee.

    Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee, has placed a hold on moving to conference, saying she objects to many provisions that would repeal tax breaks for the oil industry.

    What does Reid think he is doing? And why?

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    Ayup. Another brick in the wall.

    The Slender Reid has become the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Ditto Pelosi.

    If/When our best Republican-Lite candidate for Prez, Billary, ascend by popular acclaim for their third term, we will be truly screwed.

    We need to either kiss the constitution goodbye forever, or get a reorg of leadership in both houses.

    I know that the DLC bastids are among the most likely next-in-line, but neither leader has provided any evidence that it can get any worse under Rahm, Steny, Chuck, and the rest of the boyz.

    It would be the worst kind of irony to see guys like Wyden and DeFazio become defacto minorities in their own party.

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    Complaint lodged. I think I'll even use some of my new stamps to send a few hand-written letters. A barrage of Oregon outrage sounds like a good idea to me. I tend to give Congress the benefit of the doubt (most of the time and Reid may or may not be a role-over to partisan administrative agendas, but he needs to know that Oregonians are not.

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    I emailed a friend of mine who lives in Reno and asked her to email Reid about her disappointment (since their websites are generally set up to accept email messages only from constituents).

    Anybody else with friends in Nevada -- go for it.

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    I also suggest dropping a note to Mr. Wyden in case he needs a boost to call Reid on his actions.:)

  • Bpaul (unverified)

    Good idea.

    I wrote a letter to Sen. Reid, with a S.A.S.E. for ease of response, demanding he explain his actions.

    Seemed dramatic to say "demand" but screw him, I want an explanation.

    Who knows, maybe there is a good one? It better be good.

  • Not Surprised (unverified)

    Gee, after years of Wyden always claiming he doesn't lead out front because he works in the background, we see that maybe his leadership in the background hasn't gained him or Oregon that much respect. Maybe it's time to can Wyden and get somebody who'd hand Reid's danglies back to him in a box for pulling such a trick. Somehow I can't seek Merkley being up to the job either. Novick, on the other hand, seem's well equipped for the job in so many ways.

  • Not Suprised (unverified)

    Oh and I forgot to mention, Reid did this even after Wyden voted "Nay" with him on Oct. 3 to reject Feingold's latest amendment to withdraw troops from Iraq. No honor amongst sold-out Democrats, I guess.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Ditto Pat Ryan.

    The arguments of my Green friends are sounding more compelling all the time.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Although Wyden's motives were probably good and Laverty might be as bad as many Bush appointees, I don't like the idea of 100 Senators being able to put up a hold on a nominee. Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like many vacancies would never be filled, and it works both ways (ie. Pres. Clinton having to deal with an R congress and their holds). There is an obvious established procedure where the president makes appointments, senate committees hold hearings and then make a recommendation to the full body to either confirm or reject the nominee. Holds, like filibusters, seem counter productive to me.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)


    One may like holds or not, but they have been the custom of the Senate - until fold 'em Harry felt the need to accommodate the Bush junta once again.

    It's no surprise that kowtowing to the profoundly unpopular Shrubbery has produced an even more unpopular Congress. The Democratic leadership is blowing it politically as they are blowing it democratically.

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    I don't think holds ought to be automatic, but I certainly think the willingness to sustain a hold on Reid's part ought to be considered when it comes to determining where he stands on issues.

    Although the same could be said of the senators who voted to approve him.

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    Not Surprised wrote: Oh and I forgot to mention, Reid did this even after Wyden voted "Nay" with him on Oct. 3 to reject Feingold's latest amendment to withdraw troops from Iraq. No honor amongst sold-out Democrats, I guess.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wyden voted "Yea" to support the Feingold amendment to withdraw troops.

    Here's the link.

    Next time, do the research before you level your attack.

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    Kari, do you think that Reid's move might have been punishment for that vote?

    Also, it appears that Wyden's hold was not about Laverty per se but about Bushite junk science/politicization of science in matters involving the Interior Department (as well as EPA and other entities, see the href= http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/>Union of Concerned Scientists' scientific integrity program).

    One suspects that Reid has interests or shills for interests who benefit from politically distorted science and related bad policies with respect to lands and resources the Interior Department controls in Nevada, not unlike Gordon Smith here. It seems possible, even likely, that he is not just "caving" to Bush, but actively seeking favor with respect to influencing Interior actions affecting corporate parts of his constituencies that could or do benefit from Bushite land & resource policies.

    It is not quite clear whether the ethics issues involved are simply about upholding laws that require action based on best available science, or if there are more material ethical issues, i.e. unethical actions, at stake. If the latter, it does not seem outside the realm of possibility that Reid is protecting friends and perhaps even himself, if only by association.

  • (Show?)

    Well, at least it didn't bold everything. Let me try again.

    Union of Concerned Scientists' scientific integrity program

    OK, that's got it.

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    Actually, scratch the punishment for voting Yea on the Feingold amendment suggestion: Per Kari's link, not only did Wyden vote Yea, but so did Reid himself.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    Ditto Pat Ryan and Tom Civiletti. Having your vote taken for granted gets pretty old.

    Another fine day for the Democratic party, eh hem, leadership and all their "proud" enablers.

    Unfortunately, it REALLY is time (actually way past time)to start asking if Democrats like Reid (and his spineless/sneaky/slimy politics) are worthy standard bearers for the liberal values of this nation.

    And it's a good thing Reid voted to bring the troops home, otherwise they'd still be over their. Ooohhhhh.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)

    With Democrats like this, why do they even bother having Republicans?

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    Well, it's nothing new; Eugene Debs said a century ago that the U.S. has one political party with two right wings.

    The thing is, though, that there really are significant differences between the parties. The interesting thing is to look at where the differences are strongest, where they are least, and what issues are kept off the agenda entirely by common consent of the dominant forces in each party.

    The differences are strongest, arguably, on issues involving human and civil rights. Since these matter a good deal, that difference matters.

    The differences are weakest in certain economic areas, e.g. so-called free trade, big finance, intellectual property, and on assumptions of the rectitude of U.S. power and pretensions to a right to imperial hegemony in the world.

    More generally they are weak in certain overarching economic principles (e.g. that we should avoid publicly funded health care at all cost, or that we should not critically examine the dysfunctions and mythological status of so-called free markets beyond a superficial level).

    In the areas of weaker difference, the situation is like a Venn diagram with a lot of common area, but sections of each party who would be excluded from the other.

    Karl Marx famously called the governments of capitalist countries "the executive committee of the ruling class." Part of what he meant was that the powerful economic interests actually need a significant degree of difference among governing parties. It has to be contained within limits, of course. But they need the flexibility such difference provides to regulate competition among sectors and entities, and to correct matters if overdominance of a narrow interest threatens the stability of the whole system.

    Arguably the Bushite narrowness with respect to energy interests, with its domestic and even more its global policy consequences (including geostrategic but also ecological policies) poses such a threat, in combination with their ideologically driven fiscal recklessness and the historically deeper R efforts to cut off the DP from corporate funding through the K-Street Project.

    Bartlett and Steele (sp?) the Baltimore Sun journalists, had a more prosaic take on the situation in the late 1980s that pretty much still applies. They argued that the Rs essentially got all of the their funding from the corporate sector, whereas the Ds got about half their support from the same range of sources and about half from organized labor, including both cash and volunteer labor. (NPR today reports that AFSCME has endorsed Hillary Clinton and has said it will commit $60 million to the campaign & mobilize 40,000 volunteers).

    To Bartlett and Steele, this situation means that the R's have a greater capacity to be internally coherent and disciplined on economic policy matters, while we D's are structurally incoherent, especially in areas where the interests of labor and corporations conflict, & thus we see significant % of Ds peeling off to join Rs on such matters (e.g. Earl Blumenauer's unfortunate propensity to vote for bad "free trade" deals like the upcoming one with Peru). Insofar as foreign policy is conducted primarily in the corporate interest the same effect arises there.

    Of course matters are a bit more complicated than that as both parties have internal divisions even at the national elected official and organizational level, and both have to manage the fact that they don't really operate primarily in the interests of the popular constituencies they mobilize. Part of the way they manage the attendant problems is through the local & state levels of the parties.

    At present there seems to be some hope that the national D's have finally come to grasp that they have to reverse the massive tilt of the law against workers and their organizations, so that we might see some real labor law reform of Democrats continue to control Congress and manage to elect a president. But it's far from certain.

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    I really hope Mr. Wyden makes a statement of some kind about this. It's made the national blogs who are quoting Wyden's staff as saying that the issues that Mr. Wyden had with the nomination were never resolved, but they wouldn't second-guess Reid.

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