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Public Statements

At The request of Mr. REID, The Following Statement Was Ordered to Be Printed in the Record.

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I recently declined to sign a letter that is circulating, in which certain Senators pledge not to place ``secret'' holds on legislation and nominations. The letter features a very broad promise by the signers to refrain from asking the leadership to delay Senate consideration of a matter, without a full public explanation of the request.

When a small minority--often a minority of one--abuses senatorial courtesy and misuses anonymous holds to indefinitely delay action on matters, then I am as adamant as any of my colleagues in insisting that Senators should come to the Senate floor and make their objections known. When abuses of this courtesy have occurred, I have supported efforts by others, and proposed some of my own, to ignore holds after a certain period of time. I am ready to support such efforts again.

But I also believe that there are situations when it is appropriate and even important for Senators to raise a private objection to the immediate consideration of a matter with the leadership and to request a reasonable amount of time to try to have concerns addressed. There are times when Senators put holds on nominations or bills not to delay action but to be notified before a matter is coming to the floor so that they can prepare amendments or more easily plan schedules. These are courtesies afforded to all Senators. In many cases, there is nothing nefarious or diabolical about reasonable requests for holds. Certainly, public disclosures are not necessary every time Senators want to slightly alter the Senate schedule for the coming week. Certainly, public disclosures are not necessary every time Senators request consultation or advanced notification on a matter coming to the floor.

I appreciate that some Senators may be frustrated with what they believe are abuses of the Senate rules, but I also hope that Senators will endeavor to understand--before they suggest pledges or propose less than well-reasoned changes--that the rules, precedents, customs, practices, traditions, and courtesies of the Senate have been forged over hundreds of years and after much trial and experience. After all, the benefit of this experience is to preserve the institutional protection of all Senators and their efforts to fairly represent the people of their States. The Senate is not the House of Representatives and was never intended to function as such. The Senate's purpose is to carefully and critically examine, not to expedite.

Unfortunately, when the Senate rules and customs are abused and Senators become frustrated, it can lead to ill-considered changes, and sometimes the pendulum can swing too far. Let us try to keep the institutional purpose of the Senate uppermost in mind. The Nation certainly requires the extended debate and deliberation that those time-honored rules, precedents, and customs are designed to guarantee.


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