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September 5, 2006
The Hill Plays Grab-Ass With S2590

When we started the day, the Coburn/Obama bill to establish a searchable database for the federal budget, a great new tool to keep appropriations above board and to establish accountability for how our money is spent, had no holds and looked ready to receive a vote by unanimous consent. By the end of the day, two politicians from each side had placed holds on the legislation, one from each party. No one knows who the Democrat is, but the Republican is rumored to be Ted Stevens, who had just released his previous hold after an avalanche of criticism.

Bill Frist has made it clear that the bill will receive a vote this month, regardless of how many holds it receives:

My Democrat colleagues have not yet cleared this legislation ... but I'm confident that they will do so promptly or pay the consequences of continued obstruction.

Now is the time to act on S. 2590. And we will act this September to pass this bill and bring the bright light of public scrutiny to the federal budget.

Update from Senator Frist: As soon as I blogged this, I received word that a Republican Senator has not cleared the bill. Let me be clear, hold or no hold, I will bring this legislation to the floor for a vote in September.

Let's once again revisit what holds mean. A hold is just a tip-off to caucus leadership that they intend to object when a bill is introduced to the Senate floor. It's supposed to be used to slow the process enough to allow all members to review the material in detail, but often it's used for petty revenge against a bill's sponsors.

However petty and maddening these holds are, they cannot stop legislation from coming to the floor. As many Senators who have holds can object and deny unanimous consent -- but it can only stop the bill once. After that, the bill will have to face as many as three cloture motions, which will take six legislative days to complete, but after that the bill must come to the floor for a vote.

At this point, it makes no difference whether there are one hold or a dozen. Any number will invoke the need for cloture, and a multiplicity will not make it any worse. Of course, we can still hold them accountable for their holds -- and we hope the Senate leadership will reveal the gameplayers if they do not cease.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 5, 2006 6:17 PM

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