WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, president pro tempore, and Ron Wyden of Oregon sent an informational memo to their colleagues of the new Congress regarding the Senate’s requirements for the disclosure of holds on nominations or legislation. The requirements were adopted in 2011 by a bipartisan resolution brought to the Senate floor by Grassley and Wyden to end the secrecy of Senate holds, a practice that allows individual senators to object to Senate action on legislation or nominations and, thereby, prevent a measure from moving forward. The Standing Order created by the Grassley-Wyden legislation requires senators to make their objections in writing and the objections to be printed in the Congressional Record two days after they are made, whether or not the bills or nominations have been brought up for floor consideration. It passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 92 to 4. The memo can be found here and below.

March 6, 2019

Senate Requirements for Disclosure of Holds

Dear Colleague:

On January 27, 2011, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to adopt Senate Resolution 28, which established a permanent standing order of the Senate ending secret holds and creating a requirement that Senators make a hold public within two session days of placing the hold. As authors of this standing order, we would like to bring its contents to the attention of all senators and remind our colleagues that this requirement is still in effect.

What is a Hold? – A hold is any notice communicated to a senator’s party leader of that senator’s intent to object to proceeding to legislation or a nomination.

What does the standing order of the Senate say? – The operative portion reads:

        RECOGNITION OF NOTICE OF INTENT- The majority and minority leaders of the Senate or their designees shall recognize a notice of intent to object to a covered request of a Senator who is a member of their caucus if the Senator—

            (A) submits the notice of intent to object in writing to the appropriate leader and grants in the notice of intent to object permission for the leader or designee to object in the Senator's name; and

            (B) not later than 2 session days after submitting the notice of intent to object to the appropriate leader, submits a copy of the notice of intent to object to the Congressional Record and to the Legislative Clerk for inclusion in the applicable calendar section described in subsection (b).

What does this mean? – This means that the leaders shall only recognize holds that are submitted in writing explicitly giving the relevant leader permission to object in the senator’s name. Also, the hold must be disclosed within two session days in the Congressional Record, plus it will be included in a special section of the Legislative or Executive Calendar until the hold is lifted. If you have any questions, please contact James Rice on Senator Grassley’s staff or Becca Nathanson on Senator Wyden’s staff.