[Congressional Record: March 28, 2006 (Senate)]
[Page S2438-S2439]

                        ELIMINATING SECRET HOLDS

  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I am hopeful that shortly the Senate will 
be voting on a measure that will take a very significant step forward 
by bringing sunshine and public accountability to the Senate.
  If you walk the streets of this country and ask someone what a hold 
is in the Senate, I don't think you will get 1 out of 100 people who 
will have any idea what you are talking about. But the fact of the 
matter is, a hold in the Senate is the ability to block a piece of 
legislation, block a nomination from being even discussed in the 
Senate. As a result of a hold, the Senate will not even get a peek at a 
topic that may involve millions of our citizens, billions of dollars, 
and affect the quality of life of citizens in every corner of the land.
  It would be one thing if the Senator who exercises this extraordinary 
tool--this tool that carries so much power with it--if that Senator 
would exercise the tool in public and could be held accountable. 
Unfortunately, holds are now placed in secret. They are done behind 
closed doors. The sponsor of a piece of legislation will not even know 
about it. It seems to me a Senate that is serious about lobbying reform 
absolutely must stop doing so much of its important business in secret, 
behind closed doors.
  I will offer later in the day, I hope, with Senator Grassley, Senator 
Inhofe, and Senator Salazar, an amendment to bring a bit of sunshine to 
the Senate. It is an amendment that would not abolish the hold. 
Senators' rights would be fully protected. Senator Collins is in the 
Senate, and as a result of the colloquy we had several weeks ago, this 
legislation also protects the Senator's right to be consulted on a 
piece of legislation. Certainly, that is something all Members feel is 
important. If there are bills that affect a Senator's State or that 
they have a great interest in, that Senator would have an opportunity 
to study the legislation and to reflect on what it means.
  What we say in this bipartisan amendment is when a Senator digs in, 
when a Senator plans to exercise this extraordinary power, the power to 
block a bill or a nomination from ever being heard, we are saying that 
Senator has got to be held publicly accountable. What we require is 
that a Senator who exercises a hold would have to so state in the 
Congressional Record. They could still use their procedural rights to 
make sure they have a chance to oppose the legislation and to oppose it 
strongly, but they would be identified as the person who was so 
  The intelligence reauthorization bill is now being prevented from 
coming to this Senate as a result of a secret hold.

[[Page S2439]]

A lot of Senators give lengthy and eloquent speeches about fighting 
terrorism, but now a bill that is vital to national security is being 
held up in secret. It has been held up for months and months as a 
result of this secret hold. That ought to change.
  Certainly, it ought to change if Senators are serious about lobbying 
reforms because one of the best ways for lobbyists to work their will 
is to have procedures that help them behind closed doors. That is what 
the secret hold is all about. It is written nowhere in the Senate 
rules, but it has become one of the most significant and powerful tools 
a Senator can exercise. It is done without any public accountability at 

  There has been a bit of irony in the last couple of days about this 
legislation. I thought it was going to come up already, given the fact 
that we had come back from the recess. I was under the impression that 
would be the first order of business. But we could not get to the 
bipartisan measure to abolish secret holds because, lo and behold, 
there was a secret hold on an amendment to try to get the Senate to do 
its business in public. That pretty much says it all. Not only do we 
have secret holds on national security legislation, legislation that 
would make a real difference in terms of striking a balance between 
fighting terrorism ferociously and protecting civil liberties, not only 
do we have national security legislation being held up, but even 
efforts to bring about basic reforms such as openness and sunshine for 
the Senate are being held up as a result of this secret procedure.
  I emphasize what the change will mean for the Senate. No longer if 
this change is put in place will staff be able to keep secret from 
Members an objection; no longer will leadership be the only one to know 
about an objection; no longer will it be possible for a Senator to be 
kept in the dark about something they have worked on for years and 
years. The fact is, Senator Grassley and I have worked on this 
legislation for a full decade.
  Senator Lott, the chairman of the Rules Committee, has been 
particularly helpful in terms of working with us on this measure. There 
have been hearings. Senator Byrd, who, of course, knows more about the 
Senate rules than anyone in the history of this Senate, has been very 
helpful in terms of giving us background about what we ought to do. 
This amendment puts the burden on the person who ought to be held 
publicly accountable: squarely on the shoulders of an objector. The 
person who exercises a hold will be identified and colleagues can 
discuss with that person how to move forward in a bipartisan way.
  No Senator is going to be stripped of their rights. No Senator is 
going to be kept from protecting constituents that have serious 
concerns about legislation. But with the right to stand up for your 
view and to object to a piece of legislation, there ought to be some 
responsibility. There ought to be some accountability.
  I find it stunning the Senate would even consider lobbying reform 
without an effort to do its business in public. We have already spent 
several days on this legislation. Hopefully, it will be completed 
shortly. It seems to me one of the most obvious reforms that Senators 
ought to be in favor of, if this Senate is serious about reform, is 
doing its business in public.
  Nowhere in the Senate rules does it say anything about secret holds. 
Nowhere is it written down that a Senator can exercise this enormous 
power and do it without any accountability at all.
  Senator Grassley and I believe it is time to bring some sunshine for 
the Senate and for Senators to do the people's business in public. 
Secret holds have been the bane of the Senate for decades. Back in the 
101st Congress, then-majority Bob Dole said:

       I have never understood why Republicans put a hold on 
     Republican nominees. Maybe I will figure it out some day. I 
     have been working on it. I have not quite understood it.

  In that same Congress, former Senator John Glenn observed:

       . . . as one hold would come off, there was agreement 
     another one would be put on, so that no one really had to 
     identify themselves. The objecting Senator would remain 
     anonymous. So much for sunshine in the United States Senate.

  Those are the words of one of our most respected colleagues, John 
Glenn, words that I hope Senators will remember later in the day when 
we will have a chance to vote on a bipartisan amendment to bring some 
sunlight to the Senate and some openness in the way the Senate conducts 
the public's business.
  When we have important national security legislation held hostage 
today by a secret hold, that alone says that this Senate needs to 
change the way it does business. It ought to do its business in the 
open. It ought to do its business in a way that will hold Senators 
  After 10 years, Senator Grassley and I have watched these secret 
holds block legislation, block nominations in a way that does a 
disservice to all the people we represent.
  We are going to have a chance to end this. We are going to have a 
chance to ensure that while Senators can exercise their rights and 
debate topics that they feel strongly about, they can also be held 
publicly accountable.
  I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Burr). Without objection, it is so 


                           Amendment No. 2944

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.
  Mr. SESSIONS. I assume Senator Inhofe will have time after I conclude 
my 10 minutes and I ask unanimous consent to that effect. He is on the 
other side of this issue.
  The Wyden amendment provides a new advantage for those who want 
bigger and more expensive Government. Senators who want time to study a 
bill before granting consent would have to put their names in the 
Record as objecting to it even though they may quickly decide they do 
not have an objection to the bill.
  First, the Senator from Oregon stated that this amendment--and this 
is a good example of what happens in the Senate--that this amendment 
was being blocked by a secret hold. But there was no secret hold. The 
leadership of the Senate knew that I had an interest in participating 
in the debate, but I had a meeting at the White House this morning and 
so I asked if they could accommodate that and set the debate at a time 
I could participate. That apparently was worked out.
  Under the Senator from Oregon's amendment, I would have had to submit 
a written request to the majority leader in order to participate in the 
debate, but I was at the White House and that was not very practical. 
Is telling my leader I would like an opportunity to be in the Senate to 
debate this issue now an unreasonable request? The Senator from Oregon 
has also stated that the intelligence authorization bill is being held 
up based on a secret hold. In truth, it is not a secret. I will tell 
the Senator who is holding that important intelligence bill: It is the 
two Senators from Massachusetts. Senators Kennedy and Kerry have 
objected to considering the bill because they want to offer amendments. 
Some say they are poison-pill amendments, but they are amendments they 
want to offer. So if the Senator has a problem about that, he should 
talk to his colleagues. The Senators may say this only applies to 
proceeding to a bill. This is an important thing, because in 99 percent 
of the cases, proceedings of the bill and passage of the bill happen at 
the same time. The bill is called up and asked to be passed by 
unanimous consent. It is all the same request. Frankly, the problem 
with this bill goes further than the mechanical application. It makes a 
statement. It basically says that passing bills is inherently a good 
thing, and we should assume any Senator who has never heard of a bill 
should consent to it. Anyone who dares not to grant promptly and 
immediately any such consent is some scoundrel who needs to be exposed 
to misdeeds.
  Senator Coburn has offered an amendment that says if we are going to 
have this hold amendment, he would offer one that says if you want to 
pass a bill and there is no quorum present, and you want to ram it 
through with no quorum present, you need to have a petition signed by 
100 Senators saying they are prepared to let the bill go through.
  Why not? It is not practical, perhaps, but the system is not designed 
to be practical. Frankly, it is too easy to pass bills. Bills flow 
through this body like water.
  I want the American people to know how bills are passed in this 
Senate. We were talking about some sunshine here. Let's talk about it. 
There is a system we have called a hotline. What is a hotline? In each 
Senate office there are three telephones with hotline buttons on them. 
Most evenings, sometimes after business hours, these phones begin to 
ring. The calls are from the Republican and the Democratic leaders to 
each of their Members, asking consent to pass this or that bill--not 
consider the bill or have debate on the bill but to pass it. Those 
calls will normally give a deadline. If the staff do not call back in 
30 minutes, the bill passes. Boom. It can be 500 pages. In many 
offices, when staffers do not know anything about the bill, they 
usually ignore the hotline and let the bill pass without even informing 
their Senators. If the staff miss the hotline, or do not know about it 
or were not around, the Senator is deemed to have consented to the 
passage of some bill which might be quite an important piece of 
  So that is the real issue here. The issue is not about holds. The 
rules say nothing about holds. Holds do not exist. The issue is 
consent. Nobody has a right to have an individual Senator's consent to 
pass a bill. They act as though you have a right to get it. You would 
expect if you are going to say you have unanimous consent, you have 
consent. But that is not always the case.
  If staff do not have time to read the bill--some of these bills are 
hundreds of pages long--they frequently assume someone else has read 
it. Staff in the Senate offices do not read all these bills, and they 
go back to whatever they were doing before the hotline phone rang. 
Presumably, some committee staffer has read the bill at some point 
along the way, but in almost no case have actual Members of the Senate 
granted their intentional consent to the bills that pass during the 
day's wrapup that we often see late into the night on C-SPAN.
  In many cases, even Senators sponsoring the bill have never read it, 
unfortunately. Committee reports are filed on bills. Very few staff 
have read the committee reports. How do I know about this? I have the 
thankless task of chairing the Senate Steering Committee. One of our 
commitments is to review every bill that is hotlined in the Senate. My 
staff actually reads them. It is a service to my colleagues, I suggest. 
They read the CBO scores which tell how much the bill costs the 
taxpayers. A lot of times they do not want you to know that. Some 
committee, group, or someone has moved a bill on the floor--they move 
it along--and nobody has read the score. Many contain massive, new 
spending programs. Some bust the budget. We think Senators who are 
looking out for the taxpayers and taking the time to study bills should 
have the same rights as Senators who are willing to let big spending 
bills pass without reading them. This amendment is not good government. 
It will make it more likely that bills will pass in the middle of the 
night filled with pork and who knows what else.
  The current process established by the two leaders provides for 72 
hours for Senators to withhold consent and to read a bill. Beyond that, 
the objections become public. Under this amendment, if a Senator in an 
offhand conversation with the leader says, ``I

[[Page S2455]]

think we ought to take a hard look at this bill,'' does that mean his 
name should be printed in the Record? That is not workable. If I am on 
the floor, and the leader asks me if we ought to go to such and such a 
bill, and I say, ``No, don't do that, I think something else should go 
first,'' do I then immediately have to go to the floor and publish that 
in the Record?
  According to this resolution, any communication with the leader 
suggesting we not proceed to a bill would need to be printed in the 
Record and submitted to the leader in writing. However, if I 
communicate to the leader that we should proceed to some big spending 
bill, I can do that in secret. This gives a new advantage to those who 
want to pass legislation without review.
  Now, I take very seriously holding up a bill. We stay on our team, 
and we look at the matter promptly and try to give an honest response. 
And if we have a problem with a clause or two in a piece of 
legislation, we share that with the Senators who are promoting the 
legislation. Usually an agreement can be reached, and usually the 
legislation is cleared, anyway, without any significant delay.
  Line 4 of the Wyden amendment says:

       The majority and minority leaders of the Senate or their 
     designees shall recognize a notice of intent of a Senator who 
     is a member of their caucus to object to proceeding to a 
     measure or matter only if the Senator
       (1) submits the notice of intent in writing to the 
     appropriate leader or their designee; and
       (2) within 3 session days after the submission under 
     paragraph (1) submits for inclusion in the Congressional 
     Record and in the applicable calendar section described in 
     subsection (b) the following notice:
       ``I, Senator [blank], intend to object to proceeding to 
     [blank], dated [blank].''

  If a Senator tells their leader on the phone they have concern with a 
bill that was offered that night, must they quickly run down to his 
office and hand the leader a piece of paper? This says it must be 
submitted in writing; otherwise, the leader cannot recognize it.
  If the leader decides against proceeding to the bill, does that mean 
he has violated the rule?
  How can we prove that the leader did not simply change his mind, but 
rather that he illegally recognized an oral hold, which was not 
submitted in writing?
  Who is to make such a determination?
  Is the Parliamentarian going to be put in the uncomfortable position 
of trying to divine the motivations of a party leader?
  I am not sure what the purpose of the 3 days is, but here is what its 
effect is:
  If a bill is hotlined at 7:30 at night, and the leaders say it will 
be passed at 7:45 unless there is an objection, and my staff calls them 
to say please do not proceed, we would like to review the bill, rather 
than reading the bill, they would have to run to the leader's office 
with a piece of paper saying we object to the bill.
  Then, let's say they run back to the office, start reading, and after 
review, the bill looks fine. Let's say they even call back within the 
15-minute window that was given. The bill passes that night. The next 
day it passes the House, and is signed by the President. It is now law.
  On the third day, I would still need to insert a statement in the 
Congressional Record saying ``I, Senator Jeff Sessions, intend to 
object to proceeding [blank], dated [blank].''
  I intend to object to a bill that has already been signed into law?
  The amendment has been so poorly drafted that it is not even clear 
what it does. This is what we are dealing with.
  This poorly drafted amendment is intended to stack the deck, in favor 
of other poorly drafted legislation passing in the middle of the night 
with little or no review.
  Let's look at section (c) line 18:

       A Senator may have an item with respect to the Senator 
     removed from a calendar to which it was added under 
     subsection (b) by submitting for inclusion in the 
     Congressional Record the following notice:
       I, Senator [blank], do not object to proceeding to [blank], 
     dated [blank].

  This is the flip side: Maybe you looked at the bill and do not like 
it, but are willing to let it pass by a voice vote.
  Now, to get the ``scarlet letter'' I removed, you need to put a 
statement into the Record saying you do not object to the bill, which 
may not be altogether true.
  Further, what if you simply want to offer an amendment, or debate, 
but the leadership wants to pass the bill clean. How does this bill 
  I suppose one interpretation is it would not apply at all, because it 
only purports to apply to ``proceeding to a bill.''
  What if you want to offer a thousand amendments? What then? What if 
you prefer to proceed to a different version of the bill?
  What if you would simply like a rollcall vote on the motion to 
proceed, or would like time to debate, but the leadership does not want 
to grant you that. Technically, you are objecting to proceeding under 
those circumstances.
  I could stand here for hours discussing all the many ways this 
amendment is going to damage the Senate, and the many ways this 
amendment is absolutely worthless as a tool to prevent blocking of 
legislation in secret.
  But what I object to most is that this amendment says passing 
legislation is always preferable to slowing it down, that letting a 
bill pass is good no matter how poorly drafted, how costly, how late in 
the evening, or how few Senators have studied or even heard of the 
  How much pork is there? Passing bills is good: In many cases, that is 
not correct.
  There is a widely quoted story about the ``coolness'' of the Senate 
involving George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was in 
France during the Constitutional Convention.
  Upon his return, Jefferson visited Washington and asked why the 
Convention delegates had created a Senate. ``Why did you pour that 
coffee into your saucer?'' asked Washington. ``To cool it, `` said 
Jefferson. ``Even so,'' responded Washington, ``we pour legislation 
into the senatorial saucer to cool it.''
  The Framers intended the Senate to deliberate, to thoughtfully review 
legislation, not be a rubber stamp.
  This amendment says those Senators who are willing to grant consent 
to legislation they have never read or have perhaps never even heard 
of--those are the good Senators.
  But those Senators who dare to say: I would like time to read this 
legislation, to see how much it costs, to see whether it is within the 
national interests--they are the troublemakers. These scoundrels need 
to be exposed to the public.
  So, in summary, here is where we are.
  Passing midnight spending boondoggles with two Senators in the 
Chamber: Good. Reviewing legislation: Bad. Objecting to big spending 
legislation: Really bad.
  Lobbyists must be thrilled with this. Lobbyists who are pushing 
special-interest legislation will now have a ready-made target list.
  All they need to do is get the leadership to hotline the legislation, 
and within 3 days they will know who they need to talk to or jump on or 
``sick the dogs on.''
  I believe we need to return to the ``cooling'' Senate, not a 
``freezing'' Senate, where obstruction is the rule, nominees are 
blocked endlessly; not a ``greased'' Senate, where bad legislation 
passes at lightning speed late at night with no time for review, but a 
Senate where Senators are encouraged to take the time to pick up a bill 
and read it, to weigh the consequences for the American taxpayers.
  This amendment runs directly contrary to the spirit of reform this 
bill purports to address.
  I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
  Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I see several of the sponsors of the 
amendment here. Probably they disagree with some of my views, but I 
think they are worthy of their consideration.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry: How much time is 
available on my side? My understanding is we have 10 minutes.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon controls 10 minutes.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, it is my desire to yield the first 3 
minutes to Senator Inhofe, the next 3 minutes to Senator Grassley, and 
then I will

[[Page S2456]]

speak. I thank my friend from Oklahoma.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma.
  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, first, let me say to my friend from 
Alabama, I do not think we have ever been in disagreement on anything. 
I have a little different take on this issue than he does and a little 
different background because of an experience I had when I served in 
the other body.
  First, I think realistically, looking at this, you may say ``in 
writing,'' but if you call your leader and tell him, ``I plan to go 
ahead and object to this,'' and he knows it is going to come in 
writing, unless you don't get along with the leader very well, I don't 
think that would be a real serious problem. But I do agree with the 
Senator from Alabama that passing laws is not necessarily a good thing. 
My feeling is we have too many laws, not too few laws. I have said that 
many times.
  But let me share with you an experience I had in the other body. When 
I was first elected in 1986 to the House of Representatives, I found 
there was a process used to keep the signatures of a discharge petition 
from being open to the public. So there could be something very 
popular. For example, a gun control bill might not be popular in West 
Texas, but there might be a West Texas Democrat whose party tells him 
for the national scene, ``We want lots of gun controls, and I know it 
is not popular in the State, but there is a way you can go home and say 
you opposed gun controls and at the same time you can get by with 
appeasing the leadership.''
  That is what they did. They would put the discharge petition in the 
drawer of the Speaker's desk, and you could not get it out unless a 
majority of people signed the discharge petition. Consequently, they 
would go ahead and tell people they had signed it when, in fact, they 
had not.
  I had a one-sentence bill that totally reformed that. It stated that 
all signatures on a discharge petition shall become public record. We 
actually had seven editorials by the Wall Street Journal. We had all 
these things saying: Finally, there is light.
  All I want--all I want--is to be able to have everyone being 
accountable for what they are saying. I have two holds right now, and I 
have said publicly that I am the one who has the holds. I have never, 
in the 12 years I have been here in this body, not specifically stated 
that I had holds when I did. So I think that is the main thing. There 
are similarities between the situation that occurred in the House, and 
I agree with Reader's Digest, the Wall Street Journal. They said that 
was the greatest single reform in the last 60 years.
  So when I first came to this body, I made this statement: that it 
appeared to me that being able to put on holds without being 
accountable is a very similar practice to the inability of knowing what 
the signatures were on discharge petitions. Consequently, I started 
back 12 years ago working on this issue. I am very happy to join 
Senator Wyden and Senator Grassley in what I consider to be a reform 
that is badly needed in the Senate.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a November 1994 article 
in Reader's Digest by Daniel Levine be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

               [From the Reader's Digest, November 1994]

                How the Trial Lawyers Finally Met Defeat

                 A story of democracy and Capitol Hill

                         (By Daniel R. Levine)

       When a twin-engine Cessna airplane crashed near Fallon, 
     Nev., four years ago, the National Transportation Safety 
     Board (NTSB) ruled pilot error was the cause. But that didn't 
     stop lawyers for two of the injured passengers from suing 
     Cessna on the grounds that the seats on the 25-year-old plane 
     did not provide adequate support. The seats had been ripped 
     out without Cessna's knowledge and rearranged to face each 
     other. But the lawyers claimed that Cessna should have warned 
     against removing the seats. A jury awarded the two plaintiffs 
     more than $2 million.
       In Compton, Calf., a single-engine airplane nearly stalled 
     on the runway and sputtered loudly during take-off. Less than 
     a minute into the air it crashed, killing two of the three 
     people on board. On July 18, 1989, two days before the one-
     year statute of limitations would expire, the survivor and 
     relatives of the deceased passengers filed a $2.5 million 
     lawsuit naming the plane's manufacturer, Piper Aircraft 
     Corp., as a defendant. Not mentioned in the suit was the fact 
     that the plane, built in 1956, had been sitting at the 
     airport unused and uninspected for 2\1/2\ years. The case, 
     awaiting trial, has already cost Piper $50,000.
       The NTSB found that 203 crashes of Beech aircraft between 
     1989 and 1992 were caused by weather, faulty maintenance, 
     pilot error or air control mishaps. But trial lawyers blamed 
     the manufacturer and sued each time. Beech was forced to 
     spend an average of $530,000 defending itself in each case 
     and up to $200,000 simply preparing for those that were 
       Such product-liability lawsuits have forced small-plane 
     makers such as Cessna to carry $25 million a year in 
     liability insurance. In fact, Cessna stopped producing 
     piston-powered planes primarily because of high cost of 
     defending liability lawsuits. Thus, an American industry that 
     15 years ago ruled the world's skies has lost more than 
     100,000 jobs and has seen the number of small planes it 
     manufactured plummet from over 17,000 in 1978 to under 600 
     last year.
       That may all change. Bucking years of intense lobbying by 
     trial lawyers, Congress voted last summer to bar lawsuits 
     against small-plane manufacturers after a plane and its parts 
     have been in service 18 years. The legislation will create an 
     estimated 25,000 aviation jobs within five years as 
     manufacturers retool and increase production.
       This was the first time that Congress has reformed a 
     product liability law against the wishes of the lawyers who 
     make millions from these cases. And the dramatic victory was 
     made possible because of the efforts of a little-known 
     Congressman from Oklahoma who challenged Capitol Hill's 
       On his first day in 1987 as a member of the U.S. House of 
     Representatives, Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.) asked colleague Mike 
     Synar (D., Okla.) how he had compiled such a liberal voting 
     record while winning reelection in a conservative district. 
     Overhearing the question, another longtime Democratic 
     Congressman interjected: ``It's easy. Vote liberal, press-
     release conservative.''
       This was a revealing lesson in Congressional ethics, the 
     first of many that would open Inhofe's eyes to the way 
     Congress really ran. He soon realized that an archaic set of 
     rules enabled members to deceive constituents and avoid 
       When a Congressman introduced a bill, the Speaker of the 
     House refers it to the appropriate committee. Once there, 
     however, the bill is at the mercy of the committee chairman, 
     who represents the views of the Congressional leadership. If 
     he supports the legislation, he can speed it through hearings 
     to the House floor for a vote. Or he can simply ``bury'' it 
     beneath another committee business.
       This arrangement is tailor-made for special-interest 
     lobbies like the Association of Trial Lawyers of America 
     (ATLA). For eight years, bills to limit the legal liability 
     of small-aircraft manufacturers had been referred to the 
     House Judiciary Committee, only to be buried. Little wonder. 
     One of the ATLA's most reliable supporters on Capital Hill 
     has been Rep. Jack Brooks (D., Texas), powerful chairman of 
     that committee and recipient of regular campaign 
     contributions from ATLA.
       The only way for Congressmen to free bills that chairmen 
     such as Brooks wanted to kill was a procedure called the 
     discharge petition. Under it, a Congressman could dislodge a 
     buried bill if a House majority, 218 members, signed a 
     petition bringing it directly to the floor for a vote. But 
     discharge petitions virtually never succeeded because, since 
     1931, signatures were kept secret from public. This allowed 
     Congressmen to posture publicly in favor of an issue, then 
     thwart passage of the bill by refusing to sign the discharge 
     petition. At the same time, House leaders could view the 
     petitions, enabling them to pressure signers to remove their 
     names. Of 493 discharge petitions ever filed, only 45 got the 
     numbers of signatures required for a House vote. And only two 
     of those bills became law.
       Inhofe saw the proposals overwhelmingly favored by the 
     American People--the 1990 balanced-budget amendment, school 
     prayer, Congressional term limits, the line-item veto--were 
     bottled up in committee by the House leadership. When 
     discharge petitions to free some of the bills were initiated, 
     they were locked in a drawer in the Clerk's desk on the House 
     floor. The official rules warned that disclosing names ``is 
     strictly prohibited under the precedents of the House.''
       In March 1993, Inhofe filed a one-sentence bill on the 
     House floor challenging the secrecy: ``Once a motion to 
     discharge has been filed the Clerk shall make the signatures 
     a matter of public record.''
       The bill was assigned to the Rules Committee, where it was 
     buried. Three months later, on May 27, Inhofe started a 
     discharge petition to bring the bill to a floor vote. Among 
     those signing was Tim Penny (D., Minn.), a lawmaker who after 
     ten years in the House had grown so disgusted that he had 
     decided not to run for re-election. ``Discharge petitions 
     procedures are symbolic of the manipulative and secretive way 
     decisions are made here,'' said Penny. ``It's just one more 
     example of how House leaders rig the rules to make sure they 
     aren't challenged on the floor.''
       Inhofe, though, was badly outnumbered. The Democrats 82-
     seat majority controlled the flow of legislation. But he was 
     not cowed. From his first years in politics Inhofe had shown 
     an independent streak--and it had paid off. After initially 
     losing elections for governor and Congress. He was elected to 
     three consecutive terms as mayor of Tulsa,

[[Page S2457]]

     beginning in 1977. In 1986, he ran again for the Congress and 
     won. Four years later, he bucked his own President, George 
     Bush, by voting against a 1991 budget ``compromise'' that 
     included a $156-billion tax hike.
       By August 4, two months after filing his discharge 
     petition, Inhofe had 200 signatures, just 18 shy of the 218 
     needed to force his bill to the floor. But the House 
     leadership was using all its muscle to thwart him. On the 
     House floor, Inhofe announced: ``I am disclosing to The Wall 
     Street Journal the names of all members who have not signed 
     the discharge petition. People deserve to know what is going 
     on in this place.''
       It was a risk. House leaders could make him pay for this 
     deed. But by making public the names of non-signers, he would 
     avoid a direct violation of House rules. Inhofe collected the 
     names by asking every member who signed the petition to 
     memorize as many other signatures as possible.
       The next day, The Wall Street Journal ran the first of six 
     editorials on the subject. Titled ``Congress's Secret 
     Drawer,'' it accused Congressional leaders of using 
     discharge-petition secrecy to ``protect each other and keep 
     constituents in the dark.''
       On the morning of August 6, Inhofe was within a handful of 
     the 218 signatures. As the day wore on, more members came 
     forward to sign. With two hours to go before the August 
     recess, the magic number of 218 was within his grasp.
       What happened next stunned Inhofe. Two of the most powerful 
     members of Congress--Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman 
     John Dingell (D., Mich.) and Rules Committee Chairman Joseph 
     Moakley (D., Mass.)--moved next to him at the discharge 
     petition desk. In a display one witness described as 
     political ``trench warfare,'' the two began ``convincing'' 
     members to remove their names from the petition.
       Standing near the desk was Rep. James Moran (D., Va.). 
     Moakley warned him that if Inhofe succeeded, members would be 
     forced to vote on controversial bills. ``Jim,'' he said 
     sternly, ``I don't have to tell you how dangerous that would 
     be.'' When the dust settled, Moran and five colleagues--
     Robert Borski (D., Pa.), Bill Brewster (D., Okla.), Bob 
     Clement (D., Tenn.), Glenn English (D., Okla.) and Tony Hall 
     (D., Ohio)--had erased their names.
       Still refusing to quit, Inhofe faxed the first Wall Street 
     Journal editorial to hundreds of radio stations. Before long, 
     he found himself on call-in programs virtually every day of 
     the week.
       When The Wall Street Journal printed the names of the 
     nonsigners on August 17, House members home for the summer 
     recess could not avoid the public outcry Inhofe had 
     generated. With scandals in the House bank, post office and 
     restaurant still fresh in their minds, voters were 
     demanding openness.
       Feeling outgunned, Moakley allowed his Democratic 
     colleagues to sign the discharge petition. When Rep. Marjorie 
     Margolies-Mezvinsky (D., Pa.) affixed her name to the 
     petition on September 8, she became the 218th Signatory.
       Inhofe's bill won overwhelming approval on the final vote, 
     384-40. Even though most Democrats had not supported him, 209 
     now voted with Inhofe. Groused Dingell: ``I think the whole 
     thing stinks.''
       The first real test of Inhofe's change came last May when 
     Representatives Dan Glickman (D., Kan.) and James Hansen (R., 
     Utah) filed a discharge petition to free their bill limiting 
     small-plane manufacturer liability. Even though it was co-
     sponsored by 305 members, the bill had been bottled up in the 
     Judiciary Committee for nine months. But because members' 
     signatures would now be public, voters would finally know who 
     truly stood for product-liability reform and who did not.
       Meanwhile, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America was 
     pulling out all the stops to kill the bill. Members 
     personally lobbied Congressmen and orchestrated a ``grass-
     roots'' letter-writing campaign in which prominent trial 
     attorneys urged their Representatives not to support the 
     bill. ATLA even fired off a maximum-allowable contribution of 
     $5,000 to Representative Hansen's opponent in the November 
       The pressure didn't work. Within two weeks 185 members had 
     signed, and House leaders realized it would be impossible to 
     stop the petition. Their only way was to offer a compromise 
     version. In mid-June, Brooks reported out of committee a bill 
     that differed only slightly from the original. On August 2, 
     the Senate approved similar legislation. The next day the 
     bill cleared the House without dissent. On August 17, 
     President Clinton signed it into law.
       Glickman, whose Wichita district is home to Cessna and 
     Beech aircraft companies, said the procedural change 
     spearheaded by Inhofe was crucial to victory. ``A lot of 
     forces did not want this bill to go forward,'' he continued, 
     ``and it would not have succeeded without the discharge 
       The success of this legislation is proof that when Congress 
     is required to do the people's business in the open, the 
     people--rather than special interests--win. The high cost of 
     product-liability lawsuits, to manufacturers as well as 
     consumers, will require far more sweeping reform of the tort 
     system. But the passage of this one bill is an important 
     first step in the right direction. And it took a little-known 
     Representative from Oklahoma to point the way.

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
  The Senator from Iowa.
  Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, thank you. And I thank Senator Wyden for 
his leadership and the time.
  Everything this body has heard the Senator from Alabama say about 
what is wrong with this piece of legislation is entirely inaccurate. 
Everything he said we need to do to study bills--to hold them up until 
we get a feel about everything in a bill before enactment by this 
body--this amendment, which brings transparency to holds, does not in 
any way prevent any of that from happening. All it simply says is, if 
you are going to put a hold on legislation, you ought to have guts 
enough, not be a sissy that the public might find out who you are, why 
you are holding something up. State for the entire country why you 
think this person or this bill ought to be held up in the Senate. You 
can hold it up for a year. You can hold it up for 1 day.
  I have been putting things in the Record of why I put holds on bills, 
just as this amendment requires, for several years. And I can assure 
you, not one of my colleagues has beaten me up because they knew who I 
was. Not one of my colleagues has bloodied my nose. Not one of my 
colleagues has given me a black eye. Not one of my colleagues has done 
anything. It does not hurt. You can be a Senator. You can be out in the 
open. You can be transparent and still do the job you need to do.
  But after all, this is the Senate. The public's business ought to be 
public. That is what this legislation is all about. But it also has 
something to do with the practical workings of the Senate. If somebody 
does not like a bill you propose, and they want to slow it up, you can 
sit down and talk to them. Now you do not even know who they are, in 
many instances. If you are going to do business, you have to know who 
to talk to. Being a part of a collegial body, as we are, talking to 
each other is how you get things done and move the ball along.
  It is about open government. It is about reducing cynicism and 
distrust of public officials. It is about public accountability. It is 
about building public confidence. It is about making sure that as to 
what is being done here, the public knows who is doing it and why they 
are doing it. I do not see why there can be any opposition to this 
  A hold is a very powerful tool and must be used with transparency. I 
believe in the principle of open government. Lack of transparency in 
the public policy process leads to cynicism and distrust of public 
  There is no good reason why a Senator should be able to 
singlehandedly block the Senate's business without any public 
accountability. The use of secret holds damages public confidence in 
the institution of the Senate.
  Our amendment would establish a standing order of the Senate 
requiring Members to publicly disclose when they place a hold on a bill 
or nominee. For several years now, I have made it my practice to insert 
a notice in the Congressional Record whenever I place a hold.
  Under our proposal, disclosing holds will be as simple as filling out 
a cosponsor sheet and Senators will have 3 days to do it.
  This proposal was drafted with the help of Senators Lott and Byrd, 
who as former majority leaders know how this body operates and how 
disruptive secret holds can be to the Senate's business. Senator 
Stevens has expressed his concerns about the use of secret holds. It 
says a lot that the longest-serving Members of this body oppose the use 
of secret holds and see them as a real problem.
  If Senators support the goal of the underlying bill to increase 
legislative transparency and accountability, then they should support 
this amendment.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.
  The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I yield to Senator Lott.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.
  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, very briefly, I rise in support of this 
amendment. I think the misuse of the hold in the Senate has become a 
fundamental problem. I do not see how anybody could support the concept 
of secret holds.
  Now, this may drive holds into some other category, but I think it is 
a step

[[Page S2458]]

in the right direction. I commend Senator Wyden and Senator Grassley 
for offering it.
  This proposal is an experiment in making the Senate and Senators more 
accountable to their colleagues and to the American people. This 
proposal addresses the issue of anonymous holds that Senators use to 
prevent consideration of legislation and nominations. This amendment 
would place a greater responsibility on Senators to make their holds 
  It requires that the majority and minority leaders can only recognize 
a hold that is provided in writing. Moreover, for the hold to be 
honored, the Senator objecting would have to publish his objection in 
the Congressional Record, 3 days after the notice is provided to a 
  I believe that holds, whether anonymous or publicly announced, are an 
affront to the Senate, the leadership, the committees, and to the 
individual Members of this institution.
  This amendment does not eliminate the right of a Senator to place a 
hold. Some day, the Senate may decide that holds, in and of themselves, 
are an undemocratic practice that should no longer be recognized.
  Secret holds have no place in a publicly accountable institution. A 
measure that is important to a majority of the American public and a 
majority of Senators should not be stopped dead in it's tracks by a 
single Senator. And when that Senator can hide behind the anonymous 
hold, democracy itself is damaged.
  How do you tell your constituents that legislation they have an 
interest in, legislation that has been approved by the majority of a 
committee, is stalled and you don't know who is holding it up? What 
does that say about this institution?
  I think the secret hold should have no place in this institution, and 
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
  Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I understand this amendment requires public 
disclosure of certain holds--namely, those that rise to the level of 
expressing an intent to object to proceeding to a measure or matter.
  Any such objection would have to be submitted in writing and 
disclosed in the Congressional Record and printed in the Senate 
calendar of business. Quite frankly, if a Member's objection rises to 
that level, it is probably appropriate to publicly disclose such.
  But the term ``hold'' is used to apply to a much broader form of 
communication between Members and the leader. A hold is generally 
considered to be any communication in which a Member expresses an 
interest in specific legislation and requests that the Member be 
consulted or advised before any agreement is entered with regard to the 
  In that sense, a hold is a Senate mode of communication, rather than 
a procedural prerogative, and when used to communicate a Member's 
interest in a matter, it is more of an informal bargaining tactic, not 
an intent to derail or delay consideration of a measure.
  Such informal communication is not only important to the workings of 
this body, but it facilitates the development of unanimous consent 
requests and facilitates the consideration of legislation.
  In some respects, such informal holds act much like the Rules 
Committee proceedings in the House whereby Members present their 
position with regard to offering amendments to legislation.
  There is no such process in the Senate and often times informal 
holds, or consent letters, are the only means by which the leadership 
knows who has an interest in an issue and needs to be consulted in 
order to craft a unanimous consent agreement.
  This amendment does not affect such informal consultation and so will 
not impede the ability of the leadership to move the business of the 
Senate. However, when the communication rises to the level that a 
Member will object to proceeding, it is appropriate that it be 
  Consequently, consistent with the purpose of the bill before us, this 
amendment would provide greater transparency of the legislative process 
and increase public confidence in the outcome.
  I urge adoption of the amendment.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I think Senator Lott, Senator Inhofe, and 
Senator Grassley have said it very well. This amendment is about a 
simple proposition; and that is, the Senate ought to do its most 
important business in public, where every Senator can be held 
accountable. We have offered this bipartisan amendment to eliminate 
secret holds on the lobbying reform legislation for the same reason 
Willy Sutton robbed banks: Banks are where the money is. And secret 
holds are where the power is.
  Secret holds are one of the most powerful weapons available to 
lobbyists. I expect that each of our offices has gotten at least one 
call asking if the office would put a secret hold on a bill or nominee 
in order to kill it without any public debate, and without a lobbyist's 
fingerprints anywhere.
  Getting a Senator to put a secret hold on a bill is like hitting the 
lobbyist jackpot. Not only is the Senator's identity protected, but so 
is the lobbyist's. A secret hold lets a lobbyist play both sides of the 
street and gives lobbyists a victory for their clients without 
alienating potential or future clients.
  In my view, secret holds are a stealth extension of the lobbying 
world. It would be particularly ironic if the Senate were to claim it 
was adopting lobbying reform legislation without doing away with what 
is one of the most powerful tools available to a lobbyist.
  This has been a bipartisan effort. It has gone on for literally a 
decade. Senator Lott, to his credit, tried a voluntary approach with 
Senator Daschle. We want to emphasize--for example, the Senator from 
Maine, Ms. Collins, was involved in this--that this in no way 
eliminates the right of a Senator to have a consult, to have the 
opportunity to look at legislation, to review it when it comes out of 
committee. A Senator can seek that. In my mind, a consult is similar to 
a yellow light that says proceed with caution. A hold, on the other 
hand, is similar to a red light, a stop light. It is when a Senator 
digs in and says they are going to do everything they possibly can to 
block a piece of legislation from going forward.
  I want to protect Senators' rights, but Senators' rights need to be 
accompanied by responsibilities. We are talking about legislation that 
can involve billions of dollars, millions of our citizens, and the 
public's business ought to be done in public.
  What this amendment does is ban a staff hold, the so-called rolling 
hold where the hold is passed secretly from Senator to Senator. And 
when a Senator exercises the power of a hold to deal with an issue that 
is important to them, in the future, they will be held publicly 
  This is long overdue. Senator Dole, when he was majority leader, 
spoke out on this, more eloquently than perhaps any of us are doing 
today. Senator Grassley, myself, Senator Inhofe, Senator Lott believe 
that it is time to bring sunshine to the Senate and for the Senate to 
do the people's business in public. I can't think of a more appropriate 
place to do it than on the lobbying reform bill we are working on 
  I urge my colleagues to pass the amendment and to bring some sunshine 
to the Senate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. All time has expired.
  Mr. WYDEN. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, shortly we will vote on the Wyden-
Grassley amendment. First, we will vote on the Collins-Lieberman-McCain 
amendment which is the second-degree amendment. I applaud the 
initiative of Senators Wyden and Grassley. When this amendment first 
came up, I spoke in favor of it. I believe we do need to end the 
practice of secret holds.
  I ask unanimous consent to be added as a cosponsor to the Wyden-
Grassley amendment.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.						  


                       Vote on Amendment No. 2944

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is now on agreeing to the Wyden 
amendment No. 2944. The yeas and nays have been ordered. The clerk will 
call the roll.
  The legislative clerk called the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. The following Senator was necessarily absent: the 
Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Graham).
  Mr. DURBIN. I announce that the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. 
Rockefeller) is necessarily absent.
  I also announce that the Senator from West Virginia (Mr. Byrd) is 
absent due to death in the family.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Are there any other Senators in the Chamber 
desiring to vote?
  The result was announced--yeas 84, nays 13, as follows:

                      [Rollcall Vote No. 78 Leg.]


     Nelson (FL)
     Nelson (NE)



                             NOT VOTING--3

  The amendment (No. 2944) was agreed to.
  Mr. REID. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote.
  Mr. FRIST. I move to lay that motion on the table.
  The motion to lay on the table was agreed to.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.


[Congressional Record: March 28, 2006 (Senate)]
[Page S2461-S2462]                      


  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, earlier today, my colleague from Alabama, 
Senator Sessions, alleged that I have a ``hold'' on the Intelligence 
Authorization Act. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  I know that in the heat of debate on the Senate floor, words can 
sometimes come out faster than a Member might intend, so I harbor no 
ill will toward my colleague. But in the interest of accuracy, I wish 
to set the record straight.
  Last autumn, many of us were shocked to read allegations in the press 
of secret clandestine prisons operated around the world by the CIA as 
part of the war on terror. Congress has a responsibility to perform 
oversight in all things, including the intelligence community's conduct 
in the war on terror. In discussing this amendment last fall, I said, 
and I repeat today, no one is passing judgment on whether these alleged 
facilities should be closed. We are simply saying that Congress--and 
specifically the duly established intelligence committees of the House 
and Senate--need to know what is going on.
  On November 10, 2005, I offered an amendment to the National Defense 
Authorization Act requiring the Director of National Intelligence to 
provide a secret report to the Intelligence Committees of the House and 
Senate on the operation, past or present, of these alleged facilities. 
It would also have required a report on the planned disposition of 
those allegedly held at these facilities and a determination as to 
whether interrogation techniques at these facilities were consistent 
with U.S. obligations under the Geneva Convention and the Convention 
against Torture.
  In debating this amendment, I was delighted to work with my 
colleague, Senator Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee 
on Intelligence, and his vice chairman, Senator Rockefeller, to perfect 
the text of the amendment so they could support it. It passed with 
overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 82 to 9.
  About 1 month later, the House of Representative voted 228 to 187 to 

[[Page S2462]]

House-Senate negotiators to include the amendment in their conference 
report. The House Armed Services Committee, however, was concerned that 
the amendment was beyond the scope of their jurisdiction and the 
provision was stripped out in conference.
  I turned then to the Intelligence Authorization Act and again worked 
with Senator Roberts and Senator Rockefeller to prepare the amendment 
anew for inclusion in that legislation. The amendment was identical to 
the provision passed previously in the Senate and endorsed by the House 
and was cleared by Senator Roberts for passage by unanimous consent. 
But someone objected to the unanimous consent request to pass this 
vital bill by voice vote. Since that time, the legislation has lingered 
because someone doesn't want a vote on this amendment or the amendments 
offered by my colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy.
  I know my friend from Alabama voted against my amendment when it was 
on the floor in November. I am sure he would vote against it again. We 
can agree to disagree on this issue, but his assertion that I have 
placed a hold on the intelligence bill is simply not true.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, earlier today, the Senator from Alabama, 
Senator Sessions said that Senator Kerry and I objected to Senate 
consideration of the intelligence authorization bill because we wish to 
offer amendments.
  In fact, neither Senator Kerry nor I have objected to this bill and 
no other Democrat has objected to considering it. The bill is cleared 
on the Democratic side. That means an unidentified Republican Senator 
or Senators have placed a hold on the bill and are preventing the 
Senate from considering it.
  I do have two amendments to the bill. My first amendment would 
require the administration provide to the Intelligence Committee with 
the presidential daily briefs on Iraq from 1997 to the first day of the 
Iraq war as part of the committee's investigation on the use of prewar 
intelligence. I would certainly be willing to support a time agreement 
allowing reasonable debate and a vote on the amendment.
  My second amendment would guarantee that detainees held by the 
intelligence community would be treated humanely, and that treatment 
would be verified independently.
  Apparently, to prevent debate on this very important issue, a 
Republican Senator is willing to let the whole intelligence bill fail. 
That's an outrage.
  It's important for the Senate to approve the intelligence 
authorization bill, and it's important for the Senate to get to the 
bottom of the abuse of intelligence the administration used to justify