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August 29, 2006

Secret Hold Senator: Byrd?

Just speculation from Immodest Proposals, but Byrd is the most likely offender.

Actually, he names both Byrd and Stevens, but I'll ignore the Stevens thing. Not because it couldn't be Stevens, but because Byrd demolishes Stevens in every relevant criterion.

They both fit the profile, prolific abusers of pork, self righteous, been in the Senate longer than I've been alive, have been silent or hostile to the whole porkbusters movement, Sen. Byrd is an avid student of parliamentary procedure, both are Senators for as long as they choose to run without any real fear of ever losing an election, even if they are discovered as the 'secret hold' offender, and neither have been added to the TPM Muckracker's list of Senatorial denial you linked previously.

The case against Byrd is pretty strong. And Immodest Proposal is right-- he has little chance of being voted out of office.

He's also got something else on Stevens-- he's incredibly arrogant and a big believer in exploiting the idiotic procedural powers of single senators. He's a preening jackass who thinks himself a genius for being the "pre-eminent scholar of Senate rules."

As someone else (forget who) remarked-- given that the guy has been in the Senate since nineteen-noughty-two, is it really that remarkable he's figured out the procedural equivalent of the best bathrooms in the office? Is knowing where the boss keeps his secret stash of Post-Its after working in a joint for six hundred years really such an accomplishment?

And that, of course, is his claim to fame. (That, and being a Kleagle in the KKK.) After four thousand years in the Senate, the guy knows the rules. This is bullet point number one on his resume.

Stephanie, I think, also suggested that the retiring Senators be looked at closely. Even if one wasn't strongly against the Coburn-Obama Act, it's possible one did a favor for a senatorial friend who didn't himself want to be the one placing the secret hold.

Then again, I don't think the Secret Hold Senator realized this was going to be a national issue.

What Is A Secret Hold? Some don't know the background. A secret hold is a one-man veto, basically, by which a single senator informs the Senate leader of his desire to place a hold on any voting on a bill. The identity of the senator requesting the hold is supposed to remain a secret.

The Coburn-Obama bill, by the way, would create a searchable database of who, exactly, is getting money from the US government. It is therefore an anti-pork initiative, as much pork spending will look shameful and borderline corrupt if only people were able to, as Deep Throat advised, "follow the money."

The Secret Hold Senator has blocked any voting on the bill which will certainly pass when (if?) it comes up for a vote.

More... At Porkbusters.

Up To 74? According to TPM.

I'm not sure I'm buying this. A lot of these denials come from spokeswomen. That gives someone plausible deniability-- the spokeswoman can always claim she only meant "not to my knowlege" or that there was a misunderstanding in the question.

I really think the denials have to come from the Senator himself/herself to carry any kind of weight.

I'm thinking at some point someone's going to be on the "cleared" list who actually is the culprit.

And I think TPM is well-intentioned, but the blog is in far too much of a hurry to narrow the field without getting genuine denials from the actual parties we're concerned with.

I'm going to review TPM's list and create my own list of real denials.*

BobK already caught TPM "clearing" Chris Dodd, whose spokeswoman offered the weakest of "not to my knowlege" denials.

* No I'm not. It sounds like too much work. Besides, it's not clear from TPM which denials are coming from Senators and which are coming from spokeswomen. (And I say "spokeswomen" because most are female, so it seems correct to assume the female gender here.)

NOT Lott? Although I was just arguing with Paul from TPM Muckraker about how strong these spokeswoman-offered denials really are (apparently we agree to disagree), he notes that Lott's spokeswoman has issued a strong denial:

Update: Susan Irby, Sen. Lott's spokeswoman says, "Senator Lott DOES NOT have a hold on this bill."

Again, I don't know how much stock to put in that. A denial through a spokeswoman provides insulation and plausible deniability.

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posted by Ace at 10:38 AM

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