No Secret Holds Barred

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More than a decade after it was supposedly abolished in the U.S. Senate, the “secret hold”—a mechanism that allows a single senator to stall or kill a bill without revealing the fact of his or her opposition, much less the rationale—remains a fixture of the Senate’s parliamentary procedure. This study analyzes the Congressional Record, official Senate calendars, and other public sources to demonstrate that senators continue to flout their transparency obligations under the current disclosure system for holds, as indicated by the implausibly small number of holds that are made public as required. Whereas prior studies suggest that hundreds of holds are typically placed within each two-year session of Congress, just 150 holds in total were identified in the public record across 14 years and eight sessions of Congress. One alternative is a system modeled on Senate financial disclosures.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Shawn Musgrave