End secret holds in the Senate (Sen. Claire McCaskill)

This practice reminds me of my kids when they were very little. When I’d watch them play in the backyard and one of them would try to get the other to do something and they would stick out their tongue, put their hands on their hips and say, "Try to make me." This is an issue where senators have voted, shamefully, for Senator Grassley’s and Senator Wyden’s proposals and taken on the cloak of accountability and reform and then behind closed doors have participated in the very practice they voted to end.

That is the definition of cowardice. That is the definition of a tradition that really smears the good name of the United States Senate. That is not what this body is about. That is not the kind of people that should be in the Senate and that is the kind of practice that we need to finally once and for all end. And imagine the public humiliation that would have occurred yesterday when there was a unanimous consent that was successfully shepherded through the Senate and there were 64 people that were confirmed and there were a handful of them that had been on the executive for months and months and months and yet there was not one negative vote against their nomination. Not one negative vote.

They hung out on that executive calendar for months on end because someone wanted them to but we will never know who it was. And what would their explanation have been to the press yesterday? And to the people they represent when they voted to confirm after months and months and months. They don’t want to have to make that explanation. That’s why this secret hold has such a powerful hold on the body, because you can avoid accountability.

This is a very simple message. This is not about ending the hold. I respect the traditions of the Senate on holds. It should be a senator’s prerogative to object to anything that’s trying to be done unanimously, but there is no good reason for it to be done in the darkness of night. The simple message is there are now 68 senators I’m representing at this microphone this morning. 56 Democrats, two Independents that caucus with the Democratic Party and 10 Republicans. They have all said in writing they want to abolish the secret hold and they will not participate in secret holds.

The secret holds are a courtesy granted to senators at the expense of our democracy. And our democracy is only as strong as the faith the American people have in it. They must believe that it truly is a democracy and the hit our democracy is taking at the expense of secret holds is not worth the convenience to senators to avoid the accountability.

This is a political era where I think it is obvious that secret holds have been used by both sides of the aisle as a political tool, not as a method to take more time to learn about a nominee or to get questions answered, but as a political tool in the overarching game of the success of our team is the failure of the other team. And I indict both parties for this conduct. It is not just the Republican Party that is now in the minority. I think both parties are guilty of it. And it is that game, that the success of our party is defined by the failure of yours that is leading to the cynicism that is rampant in America right now about what we have chosen for careers. And I can’t blame them, especially if we can’t find it within ourselves to do away with the secret hold.

If we can do away with the secret hold then I think maybe we’ll be striking the note that America is looking for - that we can on a bipartisan basis say there are certain traditions here that maybe aren’t such a good idea; that openness and transparency are what this country deserves. This is an urgent matter. We have laws on the books but they are not enforceable.

I look forward to working with this committee and with Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden to find the right approach that is enforceable. The attempts have been incredibly important that Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden have made to end this practice, but the problem is the enforcement. That’s where the rub is. That’s where senators want to avoid those uncomfortable moments that they are going to be called on the carpet and be forced to name who they are holding and why.

That is the key here and in the coming days I will be working as hard as I know how with Senator Grassley and Senator Wyden through their leadership and the leadership of this committee to find the right approach so that we can get this done once and for all. I think America deserves it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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