Stevens blocking bill to ease public scrutiny of spending


Senior Member
Jul 13, 2006
Suburban Chicago
Stevens blocking bill to ease public scrutiny of spending
Alaskan senator admits he's behind the 'secret hold'


WASHINGTON -- Alaska Republican Ted Stevens admitted Wednesday that he used a parliamentary maneuver to secretly block legislation that would open federal spending practices to public scrutiny.

Stevens used a procedure known as a "secret hold" to derail the legislation, which was introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Stevens.

Speculation over who placed the hold on the measure, which would create a searchable database of some $2.5 trillion in government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, has been swirling around Capitol Hill as well as the blogosphere.

The measure is supported by more than 100 conservative and liberal-leaning groups as well as heavy hitters such as Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

It was on the fast track for a floor vote before the hold was secretly placed just before lawmakers left town on Aug. 4.

In the past week, conservative and liberal bloggers have unleashed an army of citizens to "out" the senator responsible for the hold. They have kept running tallies of senators who have denied responsibility and those who have refused to comment.

Under Senate rules, the only person who can lift the hold is the senator responsible for placing it. Speculation centered on Stevens because of his role as a skilled appropriator, but there was no confirmation until Wednesday.

"Senator Stevens has always preferred to handle this at the staff level or member-to-member," said Saunders, referring to the hold. "He doesn't like running to the blogosphere or the media."

Coburn was informed two weeks ago that Stevens had concerns with the bill. Now it is up to Coburn's staff to satisfy those concerns before Stevens will lift the hold, Saunders said.

Coburn's staff disputes that they were informed about the hold, saying they had to ask Stevens if he had placed it. They have yet to meet to discuss those concerns.

Stevens placed the hold on the bill because he was worried that it would create more bureaucracy to create and maintain such a massive database, Saunders said. He also wanted to see a cost-benefit analysis before granting approval, he said.

But Stevens could have raised those concerns as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which approved the bill by voice vote on July 27. He is also a member of the panel's subcommittee, which held an extensive hearing on the measure earlier in July, John Hart, a spokesman for Colburn, said.

Stevens did not attend either hearing. Hart pointed out that he could have discussed it with Coburn or the committee chairman at any point. Instead, Stevens waited until just before Congress left town.

"This bill is a threat to anyone who wants to play the pork game with impunity," Hart said. "The only reason to oppose this bill is to continue the culture of secrecy in Washington."

The cost-benefit information that Stevens is seeking is already part of the public record, said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a federal spending watchdog group based in Washington.

I mostly vote Republican, but I honestly believe that Ted Stevens is one of the 5 worst Senators in the U.S. Senate right now. He is shameful and disgraceful for the hold on this bill, and his hyper-defense of the millions that was pork barreled to Alaska for the bridge to nowhere and censorship of the internet. Stevens really has to go.

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