Senate Secrecy Breeds Corruption; Two Amendments Would Shed Some Light on the Legislative Process

Article excerpt


Secrecy that hides public business from the public itself should be anathema in a constitutional republic. This is true whether the secrecy is a ploy to speed things up unnaturally or to slow things down unfairly. In different ways, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Ron Wyden of Oregon are working to end the secrecy that abets corruption and fiscal incontinence. Their proposed amendments, perhaps with a tweak or two, ought to be approved.

Mr. Grassley and Mr. Wyden's amendment to the massive financial regulations bill, S. 3217, would require that senators who use a hold to delay legislation or nominations must submit their objections into the Congressional Record so the public can know who is doing so - and, presumably, why.

With one slight correction, this change in Senate rules is desperately needed. Right now, a single senator can grind the whole Senate to a halt without having the courage or honesty to take responsibility. This system easily and frequently leads to abuses, whereby a senator pursues a secret grudge, while holding hostage both the public's business and a nominee's livelihood, by blocking him for weeks or even months from an important executive or judicial position.

It must be acknowledged that secret holds that are only temporary - merely used to solicit necessary information without airing dirty laundry or unfounded rumors - can be entirely defensible. …