Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaska’s Senators voted Thursday to ban the practice of putting anonymous holds or blocks on legislation and appointments. The “secret holds” tradition got the scorn of Senator Mark Begich last year when the President’s appointee to be U.S. Marshal for Alaska got stuck in limbo because Republicans blocked it. Rob Heun was eventually confirmed by the Senate, but Begich was frustrated by the lag time.
Oftentimes secret holds of appointees had nothing to do with the person or job, but were politically motivated to make a point. President Obama called for the practice to end in last year’s State of the Union address.
Both Senator Begich and Lisa Murkowski voted with 90 other Senators to end the secret holds. Four senators voted to keep the practice, all Republicans and most of them members of the brand-new Senate Tea Party Caucus: Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, and freshmen Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator John Ensign of Nevada also voted to keep secret holds.
The new rules say the name of a senator blocking legislation will be published in the Congressional Record two days after a hold is placed. Thursday Senate leadership on both the Democratic and Republican sides said they reached an agreement to limit the number of Presidential appointees that will need confirmation by the full Senate. That’s in hopes of cutting down the number of holds and filibusters, and lightening the Senate’s work-load.
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