Senate Democrats Warn GOP Over Holds

Posted May 6, 2010 at 12:17pm

Senate Democrats issued a warning to Republicans on Thursday: Release your holds on nominations or we’re going to call you out on the floor.

“We will be going to the floor, a group of us tomorrow, to once again begin the long, laborious process of dozens and dozens of unanimous consent motions, trying to shame these Senators into following the rule they voted for,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told reporters.

McCaskill two weeks ago triggered a rarely used rule requiring Senators to publicize their secret holds, but so far Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) is the only Republican to come forward and acknowledge he was holding up a nomination.

With 96 nominations pending on the Senate calendar, McCaskill declared it “beyond frustration that we would be in this situation.”

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are pushing an amendment to the financial reform bill that would further restrict the use of secret holds, a procedural tool that allows Senators to prevent action on legislation or a nomination. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged the amendment might not see floor action.

The issue of secret holds has gained renewed interest over the past week as Democrats have accused Republicans of abusing the rule. McCaskill has convinced 51 Democratic to shun the practice, and Senators plan to continue making floor appearances seeking unanimous consent to approve nominees.

Asked whether he would encourage President Barack Obama to use recess appointments to clear the backlog of names, Durbin was noncommittal but noted the administration is eager to move ahead.

“I don’t know if they will turn to any more recess appointments, but you can understand not only their frustration but desperation for some of these appointments,” Durbin said.