May 6th, 2010
08:00 PM ET
8 years ago

Democrats press Republicans to stop secret holds in Senate

Sen. Dick Durbin called for an end to secret holds on nominees on Thursday.

Sen. Dick Durbin called for an end to secret holds on nominees on Thursday.

Washington (CNN) - Frustrated Democrats plan to go to the Senate floor Friday to seek Republican approval of 53 administration nominees they say are currently blocked by the secret holds placed by GOP senators.

"If there is a legitimate complaint or grievance against any nominee, I think any senator has a right to be heard and appeal to the body for a vote," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat. "But secret holds, I think, have become a reprehensible part of the process here and need to end."

Democrats are especially upset because they think Republicans are getting around a Senate rule adopted three years ago that requires senators to make public their holds once they've had them in place for six legislative days.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, called the practice "hold-laundering," which is when senators pass a secret hold off to one another before hitting the six-day trigger for making their names public and thereby keep a hold in place indefinitely.

Republicans don't deny using the method but argue it's allowed by Senate rules which could be changed if Democrats want.

"If they think the rule needs to be tightened up they can offer to change the rule," suggested a GOP leadership aide.

In fact, Democrats said an effort is underway to offer an amendment to the financial regulations bill currently on the floor to shorten the six day window to two days.

Democrats complain the secret holds keep the Obama administration from being able to effectively govern and point to one nominee, Michael Huerta to be the number two official at the FAA, as an example of a key appointee stalled by an anonymous senator.

At a news conference, Durbin said that Republicans finally lifted a hold Thursday and approved the nomination of a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official only after feeling pressured because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"If they're going to move this appointee because of an oil spill, what does it take to move the Deputy Administrator of the FAA in charge of air safety?," Durbin asked. "Fill in the blanks."

Asked about Democratic concerns over the issue earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky acknowledged, "We've always had a challenging environment in the Senate with regard to the confirmation of executive branch appointments. This administration's been treated about the same as previous administrations in terms of the pace of confirmations."

Democrats disputed that notion and cited numbers suggesting Obama's nominees are moving slower than George W. Bush's at this time in his presidency.

However, for all the Democrats' consternation, a top Republican senator accused Democrats also of using rotating holds.

"What I have run into in trying to get a bill or an amendment in the Senate in the past is the same practice," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate.

"Where the Democrats would have a hold on it and you try to trace it down, and you kind of have an idea of who it might be and you go to them, [they respond] 'No I don't.' And nobody ever knew, because it was just rotated around."

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Dick Durbin
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Mark, Phoenix

    More nothing brought to you by The Party Of No.

    May 6, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  2. Albo58

    You mean like the back door negotiations conducted by the Dimwits during the scandelous health care bill negotiations, Sem. Durbin? What a hack!

    May 6, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    These republicans are a disgrace, due to the fact that they want our country to fail. These people don't give a dam about the american people they only care about the rich and powerful rule this country. They will be rudely awaken when the american people talk to them in November.

    May 6, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  4. Poser

    The GOP doesn't deny intentionally delaying appointments. Their only defense is "it's not against the rules?" What? The litmus test should be "Is it the right thing to do?". Country First? NOT.

    Vote NO to the Party of NO.

    May 6, 2010 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  5. Dan

    What comes around, goes around!
    The same Democrats blocked the previous administration appointments!

    May 6, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  6. William C Stein

    Haha reps won't admit the rule is bad and stop using it, they will just abuse it as long as they can.

    May 6, 2010 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. KenS

    Hey Thune! If you don't like it when (if) the Democrats did it, then why not agree with them to abolish it?

    If a position is important enough to take, it is worth standing up and defending that position, worth explaining and convincing your colleagues and those that elected you that it is the right position. To do so is patriotic, the heart of a democracy.

    The secret hold is cowardly. It is unpatriotic, and it shows that the one who places it does not believe his position is defensible. The only possible reason is for partisan gain. Unfortunately, not for the Nation's gain.


    May 6, 2010 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |

    They have that right so eat it Democrats. Since when have you ever been cooperative.

    May 6, 2010 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Why are "secret holds" allowed? No wonder nothing gets done in Congress.

    May 6, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  10. Voice of Reason

    Even some thug in court for whatever criminal offinse has the right (by law) to face their accuser. But nominees being held off indefinitely by nameless senators for purely political or partisian reasons is acceptable?

    C'mon Senator. Show a little backbone. If you have a problem with whatever nominee, then say so and defend it. Quit spinelessly hiding behind legal loopholes.

    If (for reasons of national security) you can't tell us WHY someone is on hold – you cant make public the reason for holding; You can at least tell your democratic fellows in the Senate, and they'll quit thinking you're spineless, right?

    But we all know that isnt going to happen... Wonder why?

    May 6, 2010 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  11. jerry

    Both parties, Republicans and Democrats, continue to whine about not being treated right in appointment. The Democrats did it again Bush and now the Republicans are doing it against Obama. Why dont' allow these jokes do the American people a favor, resign, go home never to be heard from again and get a new group in to start looking out for America and its citizens.

    May 6, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. Get Real


    I remember when Bush was President and the Dems got control back in 2007, they were the party of "DO NOTHING", it seems they did not like getting a taste of their own medicine.

    May 6, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. scott

    If they have to place holds in "secrecy" then it certainly sounds like dirty, dirty politics. It would be nice if the republican party would stop holding our government hostage as they try to extort their way back into power.

    Have the courage to stand up for your beliefs. If you believe someone unqualified – tell them why. Hiding like a rat in secret while preventing a legitimately elected government from operating is cowardice and not acceptable in a truly democratic society.

    May 6, 2010 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  14. LC in CA

    This is about as sleazy at it gets in my opinion. Secrets? Isn't that the "tell" for dysfunction? Keeping secrets from the American people so these "adults" can go about their business of undermining the process of government is about as dysfunctional as it gets. Pass a law telling these cowards to show the courage of their convictions. Oh, wait. They would have to agree to that, and cowards won't stand up for anything in the full light of day.

    May 6, 2010 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  15. WarrenM

    Time for someone to get fired.

    May 6, 2010 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. Kevin B.

    The greedy obstinate party strikes again, the GOP is deadset on sabotaging anything that is helpful to the american public and they will pay a heavy price in November.

    One again the republican congress is underestimating the intelligence of the american electorate.

    May 6, 2010 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  17. Discernment


    President Obama should fill "every" nomination that has been held up by the GOP during Congressional 2010 Recess scheduled for Monday, 31-May-2010 to Friday, 4-June-2010. Fill "all" Obama's nominations that are on hold for more than 5-days, during the first week in June 2010.

    Problem solved!

    May 6, 2010 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  18. Carol of Missouri

    I'm not surprised that the GOP would be up to dirty tricks again.

    May 6, 2010 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  19. Discernment


    Fill "all" Obama's nominations that are on hold for more than 5-days, during the first week in June 2010.

    Monday, 31-May to Friday, 4-June-2010 is the Congressional 2010 Recess and President Obama has every legal right to seat his nominations unopposed during Congressional Recess.

    Problem solved!

    May 6, 2010 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  20. phoenix86

    Another hypocracy from the dems (will it never end). They now object to the very tactic they used for 8 years of the Bush administration.


    May 6, 2010 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  21. Ughh

    And the party of no continues. The republicans have no ideas, no plan. They just poo-poo everything. Nice job .

    May 6, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  22. john

    I hate this....
    Republicans have shown true colors to America!

    May 6, 2010 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. Gil

    Besides saying, NO, NO, NO all the time the Party of No, that just has to go, blocks and holds up everything in government. They tried to block the commission to protect consumers today. How can any of you out there be for this nonsense and ignorance? How can you be for the support for their support of big businesses, banking abuse, lack of consumer protection, unjust wars and the lies coming from them daily?

    May 6, 2010 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  24. HAHAHA

    So basically the republicans are stopping the government from working right and are laughing and admitting to it because they found a loop-hole in the law. They won't even say why they are stopping these appointments, they are just doing it because they can. Nice to see children can be senators.

    May 6, 2010 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. rmelca

    How many years ago was it that Republicans abandoned any sense whatsoever that the role of Congress is to press forward in governance as best they can, not obstruct in any way possible?

    May 6, 2010 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
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