Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How come the Senate can do this?

Editorial: Phantom still at large

Published 12:00 am PDT Tuesday, May 8, 2007

As noted on this page Friday, a single U.S. senator continues to hold up passage of a bill that would enable quicker disclosure of campaign dollars to Senate candidates. This unnamed senator -- whom we've dubbed The Phantom -- has placed what is known as an "anonymous hold" on the bill. By doing so, this senator hopes to keep voters in the dark by preventing Senate candidates from filing their disclosure reports electronically.

Who is this masked man or woman? On Friday, we suggested that Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee presumably knows The Phantom's identity. He, after all, was the first senator to "act on behalf" of a fellow Republican senator and place a hold on the bill. But the senator, according to press secretary Scot Montrey, doesn't know The Phantom, doesn't want a hold on the bill in question and only acted because of archaic Senate procedures that allow for anonymous holds. Yet there are reasons to believe the good senator from Tennessee has been entangled in The Phantom's web of deceit. Under the Senate's convoluted and closeted procedures, a single senator can place a hold on a bill simply by requesting it of the Senate floor staff.

Whenever the bill comes up for a vote, the floor staff then randomly picks a senator of the same party to issue the hold. Montrey claims that Alexander was this unlucky senator.

On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and asked for his help in removing the hold from the campaign reform bill. Whether or not McConnell knows the identity of The Phantom, he should use his considerable influence to put an end to this obstruction immediately.

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