Watchdog Wants Investigation of Senate ‘Holds’

Posted December 2, 2009 at 3:15pm

A government watchdog group asked the Senate Ethics Committee on Wednesday to investigate the ongoing use of secret legislative “holds,— asserting lawmakers are bucking ethics reform law banning the practice. In a six-page letter addressed to Ethics Committee leaders, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked for a review of the use of secret holds, which were banned under 2007 ethics reforms, and called for “discipline— of Senators who violated those rules. “Failing to abide by the provision — particularly in light of the fact that it was passed as part of an ethics overhaul — does not reflect creditably on the Senate,— CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan wrote in the letter.In addition, Sloan called for the panel to issue guidance on the Senate’s rules governing holds — formally known as section 512 of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.“The committee also should offer Senators guidance as to when the procedures outlined by section 512 must be followed,— the letter states. “If, however, the committee finds that Senators are never required to comply with the hold notification procedures adopted by the Senate … the committee should say so, revealing that the Senate’s enactment of this measure was nothing more than a public relations stunt.—Under the 2007 reforms, Senators are forced to disclose secret holds through a series of actions, including a notice filed in the Congressional Record, unless the lawmaker opts to otherwise publicly announce a hold, one of several loopholes in the provision.A 2008 Congressional Research Service report on the 2007 law also notes that there is “no enforcement device or method to ensure compliance, except the stipulation that party leaders shall not honor a … hold if Senators do not follow the specified procedures.—