“The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. …” ~ JFK
In the most bizarre twist of irony the DC Whistlerblower Protection Enhancement Act was killed … by an anonymous secret Senator.
Oh how I wish I was a better writer as I am unable to apply the satirical bent this article so richly craves. Feel free to write your own headline to this piece of ironical satire.
Thanks to New York City WNYC Radio AM 820 and 93.9 FM, America’s largest and most listened-to public radio station, reaching over 1,000,000 listeners weekly and their 3 month campaign of Blow the Whistle the truth once again will surface. But first a little background
Blow the Whistle!
On December 22nd, in the face of seemingly unanimous bipartisan support, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (Bill S.372) was killed in the final moments of the last legislative session when a mystery Senator placed what’s called a secret hold on the bill. This bill had already been passed by the House and the Senate, but in the final vote on the reconciled bill, it died and no one had to take responsibility.
Why do we care? Because Bill S. 372 is designed to protect government workers from being punished (as they usually are) for exposing illegality, waste and corruption. It was wildly popular – in public. But a legislator (or legislators) were able to kill it, by using an undemocratic device to hide from their constituents.
On January 7th, On the Media, in conjunction with the Government Accountability Project, launched the Blow the Whistle project, and asked our listeners to call their Senators and ask them if they were responsible for the secret hold which killed this important legislation.
With the help of our listeners we have managed to eliminate all but two Senators, both of whom have said that their policy is not to comment on the placement of anonymous holds. The Government Accountability Project has let us know that this project has had the two-pronged effect in the Senate of making Senators more hesitant to use the secret hold, and bringing new attention to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which is expected to be reintroduced in the Senate shortly.
Maybe its just me but I find irony to be overwhelming. I mean in this country where we have the audacity to preach to the rest of the world about our “democratic principles” we have something known as “a secret hold” as part of our legislative process.
A secret hold allows a senator – it doesn’t exist in the House of Representatives – to paralyze any legislative action without actually voting against legislation or revealing his or her identity. It can be just because they want to do something constructive, like find enough time to read the bill before they vote on it. (Funny how this process was never used for the Patriot Act, MediCare Part D, Health Care, Financial Reform, etc.)
The interview on WNYC asks why would this be done?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why would a senator that had ostensibly passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act the first time it was in the Senate place a hold on it the second time around?…[..]
TOM DEVINE: They did it because they were requested by House leadership, which didn’t have the political backbone to come out and oppose this taxpayer reform.
Who are these emboldened defenders of our Democracy? It should come as no surprise the very same two who have blocked this legislation successfully in the previous four sessions of Congress. The interview continues:
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, as I mentioned in the intro, there are just three senators who have refused to comment. That’s James Risch of Idaho, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. You’ve pretty much eliminated Risch, right?
TOM DEVINE: His staff has said they didn’t have any objections to the provisions of the legislation last year. They don’t this year, unless it changes. And they hadn’t worked with the Senate leadership on it. So they’re just really not a fair suspect.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And that leaves Kyl of Arizona and Sessions of Alabama. Sessions has placed a secret hold on whistleblower protection legislation in the past, right?
TOM DEVINE: That’s correct, and so has Senator Kyl. They’ve almost been a tag team blocking Senate votes on this reform.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm. Kyl has basically said that the Senate didn’t have time to review the House changes and reconcile the differences between the two bills. Is that a fair statement?
Apparently Tag Teaming is a political tool used by our media craving Senators as the wiki explains.
Since U.S. Senate rules now require the entering of the senator’s name into the public record after six days, senators now commonly ‘tag-team’ a hold. ‘Tag-Teaming’ a hold requires at least two senators that want to hold the legislation indefinitely. The first senator (anonymously) places a hold on the legislation, then, after five days, and before his or her name is entered into the record, releases his or her hold. The second senator then places an (anonymous/secret) hold on the legislation and, also after five days, and also before his or her name is made public, releases his or her hold. The first senator then takes over the hold, and the process repeats itself indefinitely.
I put this in the same offensive category as automatic pay raises. I dont care what the Bill is, the US Congress should be required to vote in public and on the record for any legislation. That is how Democracy works.