Ending Secret Holds

Posted July 9, 2003 at 6:37pm

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is floating a proposal that would put an end to Senators’ use of secret holds, but it stops short of rewriting the chamber’s rules. [IMGCAP(1)]

Lott said his proposal would require a Senator to notify his party leader in writing of his opposition to a nominee or a bill, which in turn would be published in the Congressional Record.

“It gives the leader a little bit more leverage to say to a Member, ‘I would like to honor your request, but you need to put that in writing and put it into the Record,’” Lott said in an interview Wednesday.

The Mississippi Republican said he has circulated this proposal to several members of the Rules panel and noted that Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) first suggested the idea.

“In the end I don’t think the Senate wants to take away that opportunity for a Senator,” Lott said of a Senator’s prerogative to place a hold on a bill or nomination.

Codifying the idea by changing a standing order as opposed to rewriting the Senate rules might give it a greater chance of passage. Several Senators, most notably Byrd, have expressed concern about the Senate rewriting the chamber’s rules.

Lott said if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and other members of the rules panel agree with his proposal, he thinks the chamber would pass it this summer.

In addition, Lott said a Wednesday hearing to consider ending unauthorized appropriations or pork-barrel spending is likely to evolve in the future into a larger discussion about Congress considering biennial budgeting.

“That thing had a lot of momentum going a few years ago with bipartisan support and then it kind of just fizzled out,” Lott said.

Support Group. A new directory on the House intranet will allow House Members and their staffs to quickly locate office support personnel.

Using the HouseNet.House.gov site, Members can find a list of the support staff — including financial and payroll counselors, office services coordinators, technical support representatives and telecommunications administrators — assigned to their office.

The site, listed under the Support Services Team link, includes a photo and contact information for each group.

Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagen announced the new feature in a July 8 “Dear Colleague Letter.”

— Mark Preston and Jennifer Yachnin