Senators expect to pass proposal to end anonymous ‘holds' on nominations

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By Dan Eggen
Washington Post staff writer
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sen. Claire McCaskill said Saturday that she has enough votes to end the Senate's long-standing and much-criticized practice of allowing the use of anonymous holds to block nominations.

McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Sens. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) had agreed to support the effort, giving her the 67 votes necessary to change Senate rules. Supporters include nine Republicans, and only Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.) is opposed on the Democratic side.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) "strongly supports Senator McCaskill's efforts and will work with her to schedule a vote as quickly as possible," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

The use of secret holds has enraged lawmakers of both parties by allowing the minority party to hold up presidential nominations with no public admission by the intervening senator. Under McCaskill's proposal, senators could still place holds, but would have to do so publicly.

Republicans have been particularly aggressive in their use of holds during the Obama administration, including a widely criticized move by Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) earlier this year that stalled 70 appointments.

McCaskill is scheduled to testify this week before the Senate rules committee, which would have to sign off before the effort could proceed.

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