Wyden publicly placed a hold on Laverty's nomination days after it was announced by President Bush in March.It is a breach of procedure in the Senate (though not an illegal one) for the Majority Leader to schedule a vote over the hold of a member of the Senate. It's not illegal because a hold is a de facto promise to filibuster a bill, and if the member is not present in DC, he is unable to act on that promise, so the hold is effectively unenforced while the Senator is out of town. If nothing else, Harry Reid knows his procedure.
Wyden's office was notified Monday of the call for a vote, "and it was clear that Sen. Wyden had not lifted the hold," said his chief of staff, Josh Kardon.
Wyden wanted changes to the Fish and Wildlife Service and demanded a review of 16 endangered-species decisions that involved former Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald, who resigned amid controversy and allegations of improper influence.
The department's inspector general earlier this year determined that MacDonald had broken federal rules and should be punished for bullying federal scientists and improperly leaking information about endangered species to private groups. - The Denver Post
MCJoan points out the wider implications of this development.
It also reinforces the perception of a troubling rift in the caucus that surfaced over the FISA revision and telecom amnesty. Sen. Reid has yet to clarify whether he will honor a potential hold by Chris Dodd on any FISA legislation that includes telecom amnesty. Given the opposition that has been building in the Senate on this issue, it might not come to Dodd having to place that hold, but if he does, we have no assurance Reid will honor it. Particularly now that we've seen that he would be willing to call a vote with just hours to spare when there's no way the member can get to the floor to raise an objection. This is a disturbing development, and one that might not bode well for the FISA debate. - DailyKosAt one level, it is a good thing to force Senators to honor their holds by being present in Washington DC. If nothing else, it means that if a Senator wants to keep a hold but go out of town, he must convince one of his colleagues to take over his or her hold with one of their own, which is an incentive for cooperation and compromise. But on another level, it reduces the power of an individual Senator to force long-term consideration of important issues and nominations. It creates a way to limit the deliberation available to the "world's greatest deliberative body."
In my personal opinion, this innovation in procedure is not a bad thing. We the people are better served by forcing holds to have meaning, rather than serving as purely obstructionist tools. For example, this innovation means that Sen. Reid could effectively force the Republican caucus to stay in town all the time, lest they lose their holds. For someone like Senator Coburn, that could be disastrous. I welcome Senator Reid's use of this "call a vote when the holding Senator leaves town" tactic on the Republican holds that stand in the way of important bills such as the Senate's electronic campaign finance disclosure bill.
(With a tip-of-the-hat to MCJoan at DailyKos for the tale.)