Senator Jim DeMint, (R), South Carolina: And I appreciate 'em willing to put some solutions forth here but I think it's really important that we talk about... the bigger picture when we talk about "secret holes." And I do want to make it clear, I'm not interested in holding anything in secret, as a matter of fact, whenever we do, as a part of steering or personally, we let the cloakroom know that they can tell anyone they want that we're holding a bill, so, I'm not trying to preserve any kind of aspect of a "secret hold," but I think it is important that America know... what we're talking about here. At this point in the Senate, 94% of all the bills are passed [by] unanimous consent. Ninety-four percent. So this is hardly a "lack of productivity." And what this means is that ninety-four percent of the bills that pass the Senate have no debate, no vote, no amendments, no reading of the bill, no on-line disclosure, and very often, no score from the Congressional Budget Office.
When I first took over the steering committee, one of the things I learned real quickly is that when... whenever we're having a break, if we're going [home] for a week, like we are this week, on my way to the airport, I would get a call from staff telling me there were dozens of requests to pass bills, unanimous consent, 'cause they knew we were all out of... going out of town. And a lot of them had some pretty big price tags on 'em. Folks, you don't get thirteen trillion dollars in debt when you're doing things right. And part of the problem is that ninety-four percent of the bills that pass the Senate pass in secret.
The problem is not "secret holds," it's the secret passing of bills, and very often we don't even know who's requesting bills. And if we didn't have staff available at night, when they run their so-called "hot lines," which means the phone in your office rings, they ask if you will agree to pass a bill... you haven't read it, you don't know what it costs, but if you don't agree to pass it by unanimous consent, you are "holding the bill." If you ask to read it for the next day or two, it's very likely that some association is getting e-mails from either the Republican or Democrat side, that Senator DeMint is "holding this desparately needed piece of legislation," who nobody else has read. I'd be glad to work with my collegues on dealing with this issue if they believe secret holds are [the] problem, but I frankly think [that] passing 94% of the bills, without anybody even reading them or knowing [that] they're getting passed is not a good way to do business.
I think it's fair to have some system where first of all, you can not secretly ask for a bill to be passed [by] unanimous consent, and that's what goes on... here today. And we should look at the Coburn-McCaskell Amendment, where if you want something passed, unanimous consent, in the dark of night, that you have to put it on the internet for at least three days, with a cost from the Congressional Budget Office, so we know what we're getting into.
Again, I want to remind you, we don't have a problem in Washington of not passing enough bills or spending enough money. The problem we have is we're passing bills that we don't even read that have price tags that are running our country into a crushing debt. And, again, I want to work with my collegues. But if you're opposed to "secret holds," which are not a problem and again I'm not aware of one where we don't know who's holding it. But I have a problem with people asking that bills be passed in secret, and that 94% of the bills, in this place, get passed that way.
There are a lot of pressing issues that we face as a country, but one of them is not "secret holds." And if we want to spend floor time debating it, I want to be involved with that debate. But we have no problem here of things being slowed down; the problem we have is every week, just like this week, we're adding to the spending, we're borrowing more money as a country, we're increasing our national debt, and we're expanding the Federal Government. This not something we need to speed up.
We need members of the Senate to read bills. We dont need to be talking about "holding a bill" when someone innocently asks to read a bill, and "let me let you know tomorrow."
Let's work on this, if you want bills to go through quicker, let's get rid of secret passing of bills, that have never been on the internet, that have never seen the light of day, and this is something, again, that my collegues, I know, are well-intended, but they've only gotten a piece. The real problem are secret bills, and members secretly asking them to pass. I'll be glad to let you know I'm "holding" them
Senator Ron Wyden, (D), Oregon: Would the Senator yield...
Senator Jim DeMint, (R), South Carolina: But it's [unintelligible] for me to hold those bills.
Senator Wyden:Yield.... yield for a question...
Senator DeMint: I will in just a moment...
Senator Wyden... without giving up your floor time
Senator DeMint: I'll be...
President: Senator from South Carolina has the floor.
Senator DeMint: Let me ask the Senator a question, and then I will yield. Could we include in your legislation the idea that whenever someone wants to pass a bill, [by] unanimous consent, that they have to come to the floor and say... I, Senator Jim DeMint [for example] want to pass this bill, a bill I've not read, which has not been on-line for three days, which has no score from the Congressional Budget Office, and I have the desire to pass this bill, with no debate, and no roll-call vote. If we would do that as individuals, I'll be glad to give up my right to any "secret hold." And I'll yield to the Senator.
Senator Ron Wyden, (D), Oregon: The Senator and I, I think are making some progress here, because I was about to pose almost the same question to my colleague. I believe the Senator from South Carolina is talking about the Coburn-McCaskell proposal, in terms of trying to make sure that Senators have actually read legislation... I have, Senator DeMint, already indicated to Senators Coburn and McCaskell that I am interested in being a co-sponsor of this legislation. I think it is a constructive idea, I think, in effect, we're asking each other the same question, so I think the measure you're talking about, the Coburn-McCaskell bill is an important one, I've indicated that I would be a co-sponsor, so, by way of just saving some time... would my collegues be willing now to let Senator Grassley and I advance our proposal to eliminate "secret holds" today, given the fact that we've got more than a decade's worth of work... no that I have publically acknowledged, that I think the point that the Senator from South Carolina has made, which is very much in line with the Coburn-McCaskel bill, I think your point is a valid one, and my hope would be that after putting more than a decade into this effort, the Senator from South Carolina would let us finally get a vote on this bipartisan effort to eliminate secret holds, with this public acknowledgement, at least on my part, I think your point is valid with respect to Senators reading bills, and I intend to be a co-sponsor of the Coburn-McCaskell legislation.
Senator DeMint: Well, I thank the Senator for being to work, with other collegues; it's unfortunate that you've ah... spent a decade on this bill, and missed the main point. The main problem here is secret bills, not secret holds. But, if you're willing to modify your bill, with the Coburn-McCaskell language, and if it includes... who is trying to pass the bill, along with putting it on-line, with a Congressional Budget Office score, I'll be glad to support your efforts with this bill. But I will not support the passing of your bill a-la-carte, without the language being modified to include the Coburn-McCaskell amendment and the revealing of whoever is asking that bill to be passed.
So that, again, I would enjoy working with my collegues, ah... if this is important to you to get passed, again, I think there's certainly more pressing issues, but I'm not interested in holding anything secretly, ah, and if you would work with us on modifying your language I think we could get this thing passed, and maybe (smiles) even by unanimous consent.
Senator Ron Wyden, (D), Oregon: Would the Senator yield, again, without giving up his ah... right to the floor?
Senator DeMint: Yes, I will.
Senator Ron Wyden, (D), Oregon: My understanding from the sponsors, Senators Coburn and McCaskell, [is that] they are not yet ready, in other words, we have been talking to them... I've already indicated to Senator Coburn that I would be a co-sponsor of his proposal, so we now have what amounts to not just a private acknowledgement that your point is valid, but a public one here on the floor of the Senate, I would just say to my collegues, it's my understanding from the sponsors that they are not yet ready to bring this before the United States Senate, and that's why I'm hopeful that, given the acknowledgement that you have a valid point, with respect to making sure that bills are actually read, my hope would be that the Senator from South Carolina would let Senator Grassley and I go forward, [and] finally have that vote, given the fact that we have more than a decade laying the groundwork and we can at least make some progress here today in the Senate.
Senator DeMint: I thank the Senator; I think that if we've waited a decade ah... for this bill, we can spend another day or two to get it right, and if you, certainly, are supportive of their language, I know their legislative staffs well enough that we can get this incorporated in your language probably within a few hours, and get this thing done, and I would be happy to help with that, so I thank you for your interest in co-operating, I thank the president, and I yield back.
A touch! A palpable touch! /Shakespeare