Secret Holds Still Sort Of Secret


The Senate released a memo today detailing how the Senate will recognize and disclose secret holds after changing the rules around holds. The memo brings some more confusion to the subject unfortunately. Brian Buetler reports for TPM:

The gist — and what will actually cause the cultural ground to shift a bit under the senators themselves — is that members can no longer expect to keep their objections hidden from each other. While the media might still remain in the dark about who’s gumming things up in the Senate (something reporters won’t like at all) advocates — of a bill, nominee, or other issue — will have a right to know.

Here’s how the memo describes it: “[F]rom here on out, after a “hotline” is conducted, after 2 days and a status inquiry from the Democratic requester, the floor staff will inform the requester what offices have concerns about the bill.”

In the past, Senators could do this all privately. That created the incentives for holds — members didn’t have to worry about brushing up against colleagues and allies. However, the new regime could lead to a situation where senators enlist proxies to place holds for them. So the real impact is to be determined.

Which brings me to the point that I pointed out my previous blog post about secret holds. As David Waldman has said for some time:

[T]here’s simply no way to force a Senator to put his or her name to a hold. So long as the Senate attempts to bring a bill or nomination to the floor by unanimous consent, all anyone needs to do is object and claim that they object on someone else’s behalf to prevent the bill from moving. And absolutely nothing about that process, nor any change that can be made to it, can force the objecting Senator to give up that name.But there is a way to put a name there, nonetheless. And it exists right now, and requires exactly zero changes to the rules. And it’s simple as all hell: the Senator who objects owns that hold.

If a proxy comes in to offer a hold, than the public should treat the proxy as the Senator with the hold.