Senator Claire McCaskill (D): even more on secret holds (April 22, 2010)
Round one: McCaskill vs. secret holds (April 20, 2010)
Yesterday, speaking on the floor of the Senate about republican obstructionism via secret holds on nominees with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D):
…Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I came to the floor of the Senate last Tuesday to make seventy-four unanimous consent motions to trigger a law that this body voted for by a vote of ninety-six to two back in January of two thousand seven. And this law says that once a unanimous consent motion is made for a nomination that people who are secretly holding the nomination must come out into the sunlight. The law requires that six days after that motion is made that whoever is holding the nominee must identify themselves, and in fact, that must be published in the Congressional Record…
…Tomorrow would be the day for publication for all of the dozens of different nominees that are being held by who knows who for what, who knows what reason. I wanted to make sure that, uh, the leaders of both parties were aware that this time had run and today, uh, I would ask that by unanimous consent a letter that I have sent to the minority leader and to the majority leader, acknowledging that the rule has been triggered and with the list of the various nominees, asking that they make sure that the members of their party have in fact come forward and identified themselves for the record tomorrow.
As I said last week, it’s your prerogative as a senator to hold a nominee. Work against that nomination. Try to defeat ’em in committee. Keep in mind that all these nominees I’m talkin’ about came out of committee without an objection. No objection in committee. But if you want to object that’s your prerogative as a senator. Come out here on this floor and tell the world why this is the wrong person for the job, but don’t hide, don’t hide.
So, uh, I, I want to make sure, I will be watching with interest tomorrow the Congressional Record. I’m very worried that we’re gonna have what’s called the old switcheroo. Which means that if you withdraw your hold in six days then you, you can just hand it off to somebody else. So you say, well I no longer have a secret hold, and you say, whisper to your buddy, hey, why don’t you do the secret hold now. And then have six, and more six days. And then another six days. And I just want to serve notice that I will be out here making these unanimous consent motions every time there’s a secret hold. So that anybody who does it is only gonna have six days. And really, seriously, if we start this switcheroo and continue to go week after week after week without knowing who’s holding these people or why, that’s when people should really get angry. ‘Cause that means that folks voted for a law that they had every intention of evading.
To be fair, um, it, I know we had eighty-four pending at the first of the week. Uh, I think us raising a ruckus is beginning to have little bit of an impact because the iceberg moved slightly this week, I think we may have confirmed fourteen this week of the, uh, seventy-four, I believe, that I moved by unanimous consent last week. Keep in mind that all seventy-four that I moved last week had been unanimously reported out of committee. No opposition from the Republican Party in committee. None. So.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D): Votes in favor by the Republicans on the committee [crosstalk] in many cases.
Senator McCaskill: Exactly, exactly. And, in fact, many of them voice voted without any, we even checked to make sure no one said nay at the committee level. So, these were unanimously agreed to out of committee and there were seventy-four last week. I made the motions, um, last Tuesday on the seventy-four. You made a few motions on some that were not in that group that had been unanimously agreed to. And, uh, I believe this week some of the group, maybe some of yours, maybe some of the ones that I made unanimous consent motions on, I know that we had fourteen that su, that moved, so I think we’re around seventy total right now. But of those, sixty of them are this unanimous ca, category, and ones that we have no idea who’s holding them.
Senator Whitehouse: And of those, uh, if I could ask another question, of those who, uh, have been cleared, some have been allowed to come forward for votes on the Senate floor. I think the last was Judge
ChenChin who had been held for a considerable period of time and, we actually, if I recall correctly, had to file cloture and take more time. There’s a process built around cloture, so it burns up senate floor time when we’re forced to do that. And when the nomination was finally voted on in the Senate, is my recollection correct, that he cleared the Senate ninety-eight to zero?
Senator McCaskill: He was held for a long time. And yes, you’re correct, we had to go through all the procedural hoops, uh, that take time, and time is money when you’re workin’ for the taxpayers. Every hour that we spend on something that’s an hour we can’t spend on something else. And everyone, all the good people that are here working in this room and in the cloakrooms and in all the offices are paid with taxpayers. We took time to go through cloture and then there wasn’t one no vote. Now if that’s not a great example of obstructionism for the sake of obstructing, I can’t think of a better one. Forcing the United States Senate to take days to confirm unanimously a nominee after they’ve been held for a long period of time.
Senator Whitehouse: And just by a process of elimination, unless one of the two absent senators was the one that had the hold, whoever was holding Judge
ChenChin actually ended up voting for him after months and months of having delayed the nomination.
Senator McCaskill: I don’t know about you, I’d love to know how many people secretly hold a nominee and end up voting yes. Because nine times out of ten, I shouldn’t say that, I don’t know, it’s a secret, I, I, I have to believe that many times people are holding a nominee secretly ’cause they want something else from the agency. You know, in fact I had a member actually acknowledge to me that, well, you know, uh, I don’t care about what happens to that nominee, but I need something from this agency. And so it’s, it’s like a leverage thing. Like I’m gonna hold your nominee hostage until this agency gives me what I want. I think we remember, there was an instance that came out in public that some people were being held for, you know, projects in their state.
Senator Whitehouse: And that is the right of a senator to do, so long as they do it publicly.
Senator McCaskill: Right.
Senator Whitehouse: They can still do that even after the secret holds are [crosstalk][inaudible]
Senator McCaskill: Absolutely. If you were actually trying to leverage, I don’t agree with this, but it’s your right as a senator if you want to leverage a project in your state by saying to the administration, I won’t let you have any nominees to go to work in that agency until that agency gives me what I want, that’s your right. But, people ought to know about it. But see, I don’t think that’d be really popular. I think that
people might have a problem with that. That’s the beauty of the secret hold. You never have to tell that you’re leveraging a nominee to get something you want out of an agency. That’s why we need to end the secret hold. Simple….
“…And I just want to serve notice that I will be out here making these unanimous consent motions every time there’s a secret hold…”
“…We took time to go through cloture and then there wasn’t one no vote. Now if that’s not a great example of obstructionism for the sake of obstructing, I can’t think of a better one…”
Give ’em hell, Claire.
That’s the Claire McCaskill we all worked so hard to elect.
Like Senator McCaskill, we’ll be watching for what transpires in the Congressional Record today.