With a showdown looming over the filibuster of judicial nominees, now is the time to point out another abuse of the Senate's "advise and consent" power. It's called the "hold," whereby an individual Senator can delay indefinitely a Presidential nomination, and it is seriously interfering with the operation of the executive branch.
Call it every Senator's personal "nuclear option." If he doesn't like a nominee or, more likely, doesn't like a policy of the agency to which the nominee is headed, all he has to do is inform his party leader that he is placing a hold on the nomination. Oh--and he can do so secretly, without releasing his name or a reason.
Like the filibuster, the hold appears nowhere in the Constitution but has evolved as Senators accrete more power to themselves. Senate rules say nothing about holds, which started out as a courtesy for Members who couldn't be present at votes. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden has said holds are "a lot like the seventh-inning stretch in baseball. There is no official rule or regulation that talks about it, but it has been observed for so long that it has become a tradition."
Also like the filibuster--which was never intended to block judicial nominees from getting a floor vote--the hold is being abused by a willful minority of Senators. This being a Republican Administration, Democrats in particular are using it now to hamstring or stop its ability to govern. There's no formal list of holds, but the current batch may well be unprecedented in both in number and degree.
April 29, 2005
Another Senate tradition we could do without
From OpinionJournal.com, April 29: