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Isn’t It Ironic? OPEN Government Held Hostage by Secret Hold

It’s an almost unbelievable irony that a bill called the OPEN Government Act has been sequestered by another secret hold

The bill in question is a bipartisan effort to update the seminal Freedom of Information Act to make the government more open and accountable.  It recently overwhelmingly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The House version of the bill, "Freedom of Information Act of 2007," passed on March 15 by 308 to 117.  More than one hundred organizations and thousands of citizens have expressed support for the bills.

Yet, when Senators Leahy and Cornyn tried to bring the bill to a vote on the floor last Thursday, the vote was blocked by “Senator Anonymous.”  Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold.

This is not the first time the secret hold has been used to thwart transparency.  In fact, this tactic for lampooning openness in government seems to be the new darling of the old school back-room deal makers

The secret hold is used to block a bill from coming to the floor for a vote.  It is typical for a non-controversial bill – like the OPEN Government Act – to be brought to the floor by unanimous consent.  However, any senator can call their party leader and ask that the bill be held – anonymously and with absolutely no transparency.  That will change if the Senate lobbying and ethics bill passed in January ever becomes law.

Until then, we have only grassroots pressure to ferret out the secret holder.

It’s time to expose the cowardly senator who mocks us by hiding behind an anachronistic power play and blocking real reform.  Everyone with a Republican senator should call or email to ask: Did you place the secret hold on the OPEN Government Act?

Any senator with a spine would speak up now.

Hit comments below this post or email us and tell us what you learn in your calls.


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KilgoreTrout XL

Hmm... That's funny.

The only response I get is "I'd love to answer your question, but I can't seem to find your name on my campaign contributors list."

G. Hall

The predominant irony here is that this development actually surprises anybody.


This REALLY irritates me. I can't believe a Senator could be so cowardly as to put a hold on any bill, LET ALONE one that helps open government and strenghthen the FOIA. What are they afraid of letting out of the bag?

Rick Brannon

I called Senator Ensign's officr and spoke with a staffer named Mike. He said that Ensign did not place a hold on the bill.

John McCoy

If it is anonymous, how do you know it is a Republican Senator?

Angela Canterbury

Thanks for checking, Rick.

Angela Canterbury

John - We know the senator (or senators) is a Republican because the hold comes through the party leadership -- in this case through Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A senator who wants to place a secret hold on a bill contacts the party leader and the leader then places the hold, thus protecting the anonymity of the senator and eliminating accountability.

Thomas Jackson

I currently have 8 pending FOIA's and PA's with the Department of Homeland Security (United States Coast Guard). The oldest was submitted on 29 June 2007. While that isn't very long in the world of FOIA processing, in this case the 29 June 2007 was originally not processed, or accepted based on the means of submission (from a government computer). After I asked in a second FOIA for a copy of the Federal Statute they used as guidance and reason for denial they accepted it on 21 September 2007. What made this particularly sticky was that while the government said the FOIA was not perfected, they forwarded it to my supervisors. Yes ... I'm a senior federal civil servant. And yes I consider that an act of reprisal and certainly a violation of the NO FEAR ACT.

I look forward to S.849 being signed into law someday, as it clearly would force the hand of those who live by delay.

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