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McCaskill claims to have the 67 votes needed to end 'secret holds'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 19, 2010 - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is telling the political world this weekend that she has the necessary 67 votes to get rid of one of the most controversial practices in the U.S. Senate -- the "secret hold" that allows a single senator to block a vote on presidential nominees.

And the colleague agreeing to provide one of the two last key votes is Missouri's top Republican, U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

News outlets in Washington and elsewhere are abuzz after McCaskill tweeted Saturday morning that Bond and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., had agreed to be the 66th and 67th supporters of her letter "calling for the end to secret holds."

(Technically, they are the 65th and 66th signers, since the letter is to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., who announced his support early on -- but is not signing the letter since it is written to him.)

In any case, McCaskill also tweeted Saturday: "Now I'm hoping I can testify in front of Rules Committee next week and convince them to move on rule change. Then on to the floor for a vote."

According to her tally, she has the support of nine Republicans and all but one Democrat. The holdout is Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va.

McCaskill's drive started, in part, because many Democrats are upset that more than 100 of President Barack Obama's nominees for various posts had been held up at one point because of a secret hold by at least one senator.

His Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, suffered -- although to a lesser degree -- a similar road block for many of his choices.

In any case, Bond is among the veteran Republicans who agree with the Democrats that it's time to change the rules and force senators to go public if they are blocking a vote on a nominee.

McCaskill's staff says she is slated to testify Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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