Wyden: "We got kneecapped" on bill to end secret holds

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

"I can't recall another instance where the cause of open government took a beating - took a blindsiding - like the cause of open government took this afternoon. ... I intend to come back to my post here again and again and again, until we abolish the secret hold. ... We didn't win this afternoon because we got kneecapped." -Ron Wyden

For over a decade now, Senator Ron Wyden has been railing against one of the most undemocratic features of the way business is done in the United States Senate.

Y'all know about the filibuster - and worse, the threatened filibuster that's as good as a filibuster. But what you may not know is that a bill or a nomination can be stopped in its tracks by a single Senator, acting anonymously.

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. Watch the video:

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    So, why are we only learning about all these handy tools that minority Senators have at their disposal to confound the majority now that two Bush terms of Senate Republicans doing whatever the fisk they wanted have passed?

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      Apparently because you weren't paying attention. Wyden has actually been opposing secret holds since back when the Democrats were in the minority. This is a principled stand for Wyden, not partisan expediency.

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    Couple the practice with bought and paid for reps and one wonders how we can call ourselves a self-governed people. This also illustrates that the teabaggers aren't harmless. The shill from SC had some toxic garbage to throw into the mix ready at hand, thanks to the efforts of the panicked right. What a pathetic state of affairs.

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    At one point in his speech, Wyden proclaimed that he would never add an amendment at the last minute to derail a bill as his Republican colleague did today. He provides us with a perfect example of why Republicans advance their agenda so well and Democrats don’t. Conservatives are willing to use whatever means necessary to do so. Over and over again we see this sad dynamic play out.

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    Why the charade?

    Whoever rises to object to a unanimous consent request is the one making the object. The charade is the claim that the person is somehow doing in for some anonymous other. Make the person rising to object take the heat for it and don't let the fiction that the person objecting is doing it from some invisible other.

    It is analogous to me standing up an objecting to something but claiming to do so for my invisible friend who I can't name. If I were to do that, it would be indications that I have mental health issues, yet it is an actual long-held tradition in the dysfunctional chamber we call the United States Senate.


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