Why the Tea Party Caucus Wanted to Save the Secret Hold

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 28 2011 8:20 AM

Why the Tea Party Caucus Wanted to Save the Secret Hold

Earlier this week, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., predicted that a vote banning the process of "secret holds" -- the right of senators to stop a nominee or piece of legislation without revealing his or her identity -- would get "much more" than 67 votes. It got 92 votes . Four Republicans voted nay, though, and three of them -- Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee -- had just launched the Tea Party Caucus earlier in the day.

I had asked Lee about the secret hold vote, and filibuster reform in general, at the launch event. He confirmed what he'd told me before, that he was just not interested in changing Senate rules. Why not? Because they were the Senate rules.

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"It may be one of those things where, sometimes, you throw up an idea and see if it gains traction," he shrugged. "You know, I respect that strategy, even if I don’t agree with the objective."

There's a division here between the new strict constructionist senators and the older conservatives. It was Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who turned the "secret hold" into a galvanizing issue in 2006 by smoking out the identity of a senator who'd held up the Coburn-Obama reform bill. Coburn and most conservatives focused on outcome; the Tea Party Caucus is focused on rules.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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