Stevens, Byrd unmasked as secret blockers

Two senators known for pork barrel spending come out as obstructionists to bill that would put federal grants and contracts online.

Last week, we blogged about the fate of a bill to create a public online database of federal grants data. The bill had been considered a shoe-in with support from both sides of the aisle. But then someone - an unnamed senator - put a hold on the legislatiion, preventing it from coming to a floor vote.

Bloggers sleuthed out the mystery senator by placing calls to all 100 Senate offices and getting on-the-record denials from 97 of them. Yesterday, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who so vehemently opposed net neutrality, admitted he had put a "secret hold" on the bill.

Although Stevens is known as the "king of pork" in the halls of the Senate, he insisted was just guarding against inappropriate spending. According to TPMmuckraker:

Stevens' office has asked Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the sponsor of the bill, for "a cost-benefit analysis to make sure this does not create an extra layer of unnecessary bureaucracy,” spokesman Aaron Saunders said. The Senator “wanted to make sure that this wasn’t going to be a huge cost to the taxpayer and that it achieves the goal which the bill is meant to achieve.

Earlier today, Sen. Robert Byrd also conceded that he had also placed a secret hold on the bill but that he had now released it. According to Cox:

[Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said] Byrd merely wanted more time to evaluate the legislation that would create a new database of some $2.5 trillion in federal spending on contracts, loans, financial assistance and insurance. “Senator Byrd wanted time to read the legislation, understand its implications, and see whether the proposal could be improved,” Gavin said.

Byrd has released his hold, now that there “has been time to better understand the legislation,” Gavin said.

Looks like the bill will go forward now that the obstructors have been smoked out.

Mark Tapscott has a full report on the saga.

 

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