Saturday, August 26, 2006

Another step away from representative democracy...

Here's a no-brainer, zero-cost, pure people power issue for Democrats to latch onto for November: Get rid of this "secret hold" crap in the Senate:

Senator who put 'secret hold' on bill to open federal records is a secret, too

WASHINGTON - In an ironic twist, legislation that would open up the murky world of government contracting to public scrutiny has been derailed by a secret parliamentary maneuver.

An unidentified senator placed a "secret hold" on legislation introduced by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would create a searchable database of government contracts, grants, insurance, loans and financial assistance, worth $2.5 trillion last year. The database would bring transparency to federal spending and be as simple to use as conducting a Google search.

... Now the bill is in political limbo. Under Senate rules, unless the senator who placed the hold decides to lift it, the bill will not be brought up for a vote.

The measure in question had passed out of committee unanimously and was on the fast track for floor action until the hold was placed. This is an incredible accountability measure, especially for Internet researchers like those who abound here at Daily Kos and other websites. Here's a description of what the mysterious hold is preventing, from Obama's site:

This bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to establish and maintain a single public Web site that lists all entities receiving federal funds, including the name of each entity, the amount of federal funds the entity has received annually by program, and the location of the entity. All federal assistance must be posted within 30 days of such funding being awarded to an organization.

Holds are not uncommon; in fact, they were used to great effect recently by Clinton and Murray, who held up approval on Bush's new FDA nominee until Plan B was okayed. But anonymous holds are nothing more than cowardly attempts at obfuscation, undermining as they do the underlying assumption of representative democracy - that legislators will be held accountable by voters for their actions. Clinton and Murray took that risk. This senator did not.

I'd really like to see the duly elected objector - never mind if it's a Democrat or Republican - stand up and say: I think it's a really, really bad idea to have $300 billion worth of government contracts available for public scrutiny. And then we can hope he or she is facing re-election this cycle.

Update: It looks like Porkbusters has already begun a campaign to have constituents call their senators and deny the secret hold. Join that effort and keep checking in there to see who’s still on the suspect list next week.


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