McCaskill Pushes to End Secret Senate Holds

Posted April 20, 2010 at 6:33pm

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is leading a crusade to call out Members who have placed anonymous holds on nominees and clear the backlog of names languishing on the Senate calendar.

McCaskill launched her campaign Tuesday by employing a little-used rule adopted in 2007 that requires a Member to report his anonymous hold in the Congressional Record after a colleague has tried to clear the name.

“My beef is that this is all secretive,” McCaskill said after speaking about the subject on the floor. “My beef is that [Republicans] are using nominations as backroom bargaining chits, and last time I checked, that’s exactly the kind of thing they’re complaining about.”

There are more than 90 pending nominations on the Senate calendar, and McCaskill sought to clear 80 of those names Tuesday evening, including three being held by Democrats. Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) objected to moving forward on the names on the behalf of his caucus, citing the need for debate and time agreements.

While McCaskill was on the floor, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) tried unsuccessfully to clear the nomination of Gen. Michael Walsh to be promoted to a major general. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) objected to Levin’s request, and while McCaskill bemoaned the hold up, she complimented Vitter for being public with his opposition.

McCaskill also said she would be watching the Congressional Record and contacting both parties’ leadership offices to track which Members come forward to reveal their holds in accordance with the 2007 rule. McCaskill said she hopes to either reveal the sources of anonymous holds — or end them all together.

“Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll learn who it is in the Senate that doesn’t want them to be nominated, who it is that doesn’t want them to be confirmed,” she said.

McCaskill said she also wants to pressure Senators “to speak out about their objections so that we can answer them and move forward and get these people to work.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Lael Brainard to serve as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department and Stuart Gordon Nash and Marisa Demeo to serve on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed a handful of cloture motions on nominations last week to clear some of the backlog while the chamber awaits consideration of financial regulatory reform. Democrats are also gearing up for a summer debate over President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, and the test runs this week over several lower court and executive nominees have allowed the majority to prep for that debate.