Senators warn conferees on open holds provision

Ending the Senate tradition of anonymous holds on legislation is a “non-negotiable item” for ongoing lobbying-reform negotiations, 29 senators wrote to their chamber’s conferees in a letter sent Friday.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly in the spring to require members to acknowledge publicly within three days when they place a hold on a pending bill, in a lobbying-reform amendment sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

But with the House still waiting to name its lobbying-reform conferees and talks on reconciling the two chambers’ versions appearing increasingly stalled, the three senators and a bipartisan group of allies reminded their colleagues in no uncertain terms that the eventual conference report on lobbying reform should preserve the public-holds provision.

“The use of anonymous holds in the Senate undermines public accountability. … The Senate has spoken, and we expect this standing order to remain intact,” the 29 senators wrote.

There are no plans to send the letter across the Capitol because ending secret holds would require only a Senate rules change, as the letter points out: “The hold is a unique feature of the Senate … with no equivalent in the House of Representatives.”