(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of the Senate Rules Committee, outlined her opposition to the use of secret holds in the Senate which allow members to block nominees or bills without having to take personal responsibility or credit for the hold. The procedure allows a Senator to block action without having to disclose it to his or her constituents and colleagues. Senator Murray has pledged to not use the procedure and in April sent a letter calling for a Senate rule change for “a clear and definitive” end to the practice.
At a hearing of the Senate Rules Committee today, Senator Murray discussed her opposition while questioning experts on Senate procedure.
WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S QUESTIONING (jump to 107 minute mark)
“I find it very troubling that a single senator, hiding behind an arcane rule, can obstruct the nominations of dozens of presidential appointments, usually for reasons that have nothing to do with that person, or their background, or the issue at hand. To me, this is out of control,” Senator Murray said at today’s hearing. “If I decide to hold up a nominee or bill, my constituents deserve to know that I am doing it, and why. I believe this should hold true for all of us. We need to move away from secretive, back room politics.”
Senator Murray asked Congressional rule experts at the hearing whether they believe there is any valid reason for the use of secret holds.
“I don’t think there is a valid reason for a secret hold,” responded Calvin Mackenzie, The Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of Government at Colby College.
“I have no defense of secret holds,” responded W. Lee Rawls, Faculty at the National War College.