Latest Update: Exposing Earmarks

The politics of “secret holds” continues in the Senate.

After deciding to drop his original hold on the Coburn-Obama-McCain-Carper earmark reform bill, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) first reinstated it, and has now dropped it yet again.

On the Democratic side, a new senator has emerged in the ongoing saga of anonymous holds. While Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) released his hold upon acknowledging it last week, a second Democrat has now placed one on the legislation, which now includes 40 co-sponsors from all sides of the political spectrum.

The ever-changing composition of secret holders has given leaders from both major parties a chance to go on the offensive. Responding aggressively to Stevens' reinstatement of his hold last week, DNC Chairman Howard Dean singled out the seven-term senator in an email to party supporters, blaming him for "the wasteful mess that he and his party have made of the federal budget." Once Stevens dropped his hold and the unnamed Democrat added his, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) took to the bully pulpit, threatening consequences for the senator continuing to obstruct the bill. Calling it "deeply ironic" that legislation designed to remove anonymity from earmarks is being stopped by secret holds, Frist then declared that he will bring the legislation to the floor "hold or no hold." As majority leader, Frist indeed has the power to go forward with the bill regardless of any outstanding holds on it.

Stay tuned for more updates on Congresspedia.