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Letter to Conferees to the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act - Call to End Secret Holds in the Senate

Dear Conferee,

On March 28, 2006, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to end secrecy in the use of Senate holds and to require an open and accountable process when senators utilize this powerful tool. The U.S. Constitution makes clear that, "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings..." The hold is a unique feature of the Senate, arising out of its own rules and practices with no equivalent in the House of Representatives. As such, we view the standing order passed by the Senate requiring public disclosure of holds to be a non-negotiable item in the conference committee on the Lobbying Reform Bill.

During the debate on this measure, some points were made in opposition that focused on legitimate reasons why a senator may wish to place a hold on a piece of legislation or a nomination. It is, therefore, important to point out that this measure does not limit the ability of senators to place holds so long as they are made public within three days, nor does this amendment prohibit the practice of senators seeking consultation with leadership when action on a measure or matter is contemplated.

There is no good reason why holds should be kept anonymous. The notion that there can be a legitimate purpose for senators to block legislation or nominations without being accountable to their constituents flies in the face of the democratic principle of open government. If there is a legitimate reason to place a hold, senators should have no fear of making their actions known to their colleagues and their constituents.

The use of anonymous holds in the Senate undermines public accountability, and eighty-four senators have voted to end this shadowy practice. The Senate has spoken and we expect this standing order to remain intact in the final conference report on the Lobby Reform Bill.

Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ron Wyden of Oregon
Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma
Daniel Akaka of Hawaii
Lamar Alexander of Tennessee
Joe Biden of Delaware
Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico
Christopher Bond of Missouri
Dick Durbin of Illinois
Russ Feingold of Wisconsin
Johnny Isakson of Georgia
Jim Jeffords of Vermont
John Kerry of Massachusetts
Herb Kohl of Wisconsin
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
Carl Levin of Michigan
Richard Lugar of Indiana
Barbara Mikulski of Maryland
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
Barack Obama of Illinois
Mark Pryor of Arkansas
Pat Roberts of Kansas
Ken Salazar of Colorado
Charles Schumer of New York
Gordon Smith of Oregon
Olympia Snowe of Maine
Jim Talent of Missouri
Craig Thomas of Wyoming
David Vitter of Louisiana


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