Thursday, May 24, 2007

OPEN Government Held Hostage By Secret Hold

Public Citizen's Watchdog Blog reports:

It’s an almost unbelievable irony that a bill called the OPEN Government Act has been sequestered by another secret hold.
The bill in question is a bipartisan effort to update the seminal Freedom of Information Act to make the government more open and accountable. It recently overwhelmingly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House version of the bill, "Freedom of Information Act of 2007," passed on March 15 by 308 to 117. More than one hundred organizations and thousands of citizens have expressed support for the bills.

Yet, when Senators Leahy and Cornyn tried to bring the bill to a vote on the floor last Thursday, the vote was blocked by “Senator Anonymous.” Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold.

This is not the first time the secret hold has been used to thwart transparency. In fact, this tactic for lampooning openness in government seems to be the new darling of the old school back-room deal makers.

The secret hold is used to block a bill from coming to the floor for a vote. It is typical for a non-controversial bill – like the OPEN Government Act – to be brought to the floor by unanimous consent. However, any senator can call their party leader and ask that the bill be held – anonymously and with absolutely no transparency. That will change if the Senate lobbying and ethics bill passed in January ever becomes law.

Until then, we have only grassroots pressure to ferret out the secret holder.

It’s time to expose the cowardly senator who mocks us by hiding behind an anachronistic power play and blocking real reform. Everyone with a Republican senator should call or email to ask: Did you place the secret hold on the OPEN Government Act?

Any senator with a spine would speak up now.