[Congressional Record: May 11, 2010 (Senate)]
[Page S3532]                       

  (At the request of Mr. Reid, the following statement was ordered to 
be printed in the Record.)

                              SECRET HOLDS

 Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I recently declined to sign a letter 
that is circulating, in which certain Senators pledge not to place 
``secret'' holds on legislation and nominations. The letter features a 
very broad promise by the signers to refrain from asking the leadership 
to delay Senate consideration of a matter, without a full public 
explanation of the request.
  When a small minority--often a minority of one--abuses senatorial 
courtesy and misuses anonymous holds to indefinitely delay action on 
matters, then I am as adamant as any of my colleagues in insisting that 
Senators should come to the Senate floor and make their objections 
known. When abuses of this courtesy have occurred, I have supported 
efforts by others, and proposed some of my own, to ignore holds after a 
certain period of time. I am ready to support such efforts again.
  But I also believe that there are situations when it is appropriate 
and even important for Senators to raise a private objection to the 
immediate consideration of a matter with the leadership and to request 
a reasonable amount of time to try to have concerns addressed. There 
are times when Senators put holds on nominations or bills not to delay 
action but to be notified before a matter is coming to the floor so 
that they can prepare amendments or more easily plan schedules. These 
are courtesies afforded to all Senators. In many cases, there is 
nothing nefarious or diabolical about reasonable requests for holds. 
Certainly, public disclosures are not necessary every time Senators 
want to slightly alter the Senate schedule for the coming week. 
Certainly, public disclosures are not necessary every time Senators 
request consultation or advanced notification on a matter coming to the 
  I appreciate that some Senators may be frustrated with what they 
believe are abuses of the Senate rules, but I also hope that Senators 
will endeavor to understand--before they suggest pledges or propose 
less than well-reasoned changes--that the rules, precedents, customs, 
practices, traditions, and courtesies of the Senate have been forged 
over hundreds of years and after much trial and experience. After all, 
the benefit of this experience is to preserve the institutional 
protection of all Senators and their efforts to fairly represent the 
people of their States. The Senate is not the House of Representatives 
and was never intended to function as such. The Senate's purpose is to 
carefully and critically examine, not to expedite.
  Unfortunately, when the Senate rules and customs are abused and 
Senators become frustrated, it can lead to ill-considered changes, and 
sometimes the pendulum can swing too far. Let us try to keep the 
institutional purpose of the Senate uppermost in mind. The Nation 
certainly requires the extended debate and deliberation that those 
time-honored rules, precedents, and customs are designed to