Friday, September 28, 2012

Secret Holds Need To Go

This has got me - and about every veteran and soldiers' widows - a tad upset:

In what appears to be an election-year stunt that quickly backfired, an unidentified Republican senator on Thursday briefly blocked disabled veterans and their survivors from getting a cost-of-living adjustment to their benefits, according to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
The Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, which typically passes the House and Senate without opposition, was cleared by Senate Democrats but placed on a “secret hold” Thursday by an unidentified Republican senator, Murray says.
Under Senate rules, a single senator is allowed to anonymously keep a bill from advancing toward a vote with what is called a “secret hold.” The senator in this case has not been identified.
The measure, HR 4114, which passed the House on July 9, provides a 1.9 percent increase in disability benefits for veterans and surviving spouses, matching the planned increase in Social Security benefits...

The Republicans in the Senate suddenly realized after the fact that they've just committed a massive screw-up and walked back the "secret hold."  But the damage has been done: the delay put on the bill keeps it from getting a vote done until after the general election on just that one day, meaning that the Senate has a very short window to get the bill before the President for signature and to get the checks going out to veterans and widows in time for the COLAs to kick in Jan 1, 2013.

I've raged before about Secret Holds and how destructive they are to the natural workings of democratic representation.  This is just one more piece of evidence: a much-needed bill getting out aid to those Americans who most need it and who have sacrificed most for it is now screwed up thanks to one Jerk-Ass Senator.

There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says a Senator or a group of Senators have this kind of power: even the filibuster system - itself a broken mess screwing up our ability to get things done - is codified and is governed by rules and checks.  The Secret Hold is a non-binding "gentleman's agreement" where the Senate Majority Leader agrees to a demand for a Hold on a bill or appointment for the sake of bipartisan comity.  Problem is, the holds are so clearly PARTISAN anymore that the whole idea of it being a bipartisan agreement is a joke, a parody of bipartisanship, and one that's not at all funny.

I hope to God someday someone files a lawsuit against Secret Holds.  They are clearly unconstitutional, they clearly invade the constitutional requirement of bicameral legislation (that means the two-house method of passing laws), and they are clearly wrong.

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