POLITICS
06/21/2010 07:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Senators Move To End Secret Holds

The opponents of a rule that allows lawmakers to anonymously delay Senate confirmation proceedings have garnered enough support to overturn the rule. In a Rules Committee hearing this Wednesday, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will testify against the so-called secret holds rule alongside Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden, who have been trying to pass legislation banning the rule since the late 1990s.

On Saturday McCaskill announced that her letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting a vote to end the secret holds rule had 67 signatures. The last two signatories were Republican Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kansas).

"First battle won!With Sens Bond and Brownback now have 67 Senators on my letter calling for the end to secret holds.Now gotta get a vote," McCaskill wrote on Twitter.

Grassley and Wyden, who tried unsuccessfully to squeeze the ban into financial regulatory legislation in May, hope this newest effort will put a stop to a rule lawmakers long abused, senior Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-Ala.) hold earlier this year on 70 of President Obama's nominees being a prime example.

"If it's brought up for an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate, it's going to pass with really overwhelming support," said Wyden spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer. "This isn't a political issue, this isn't a Democratic or Republican issue, this is a good government and transparency issue. This is just about good government and being transparent, which I think is what the American people want."

A vote this year will be critical for the measure's success. Senators Bond and Brownback, along with Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, another Republican who supports the measure, and a number of Democratic lawmakers will not return for the next Congress.

"Senator McCaskill is hopeful that we'll get a vote before the end of the year," spokeswoman Laura Myron said. "She wants to get this done sooner rather than later and there are numerous nominees and pieces of legislation being held up by secret holds and that's just something that she'd really like to see changed. The first step is a hearing in front of the Rules Committee and that is happening on Wednesday."

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