GOP Senator Holds Up Bill Allocating Funds to Investigate Cold Cases From the Civil Rights Era

This past summer the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, a bill appropriating $10 million annually over the next decade to investigate cold cases from the civil rights era. The vote in the House was 422-2. Ron Paul, current GOP presidential candidate, was one of the two congressional representatives to oppose the measure.

It was expected that the legislation would sail through the Senate as well. But Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma has placed a hold on the legislation. Coburn says he supports the goals of the bill but thinks the FBI can investigate these crimes with the resources that have already been appropriated. Coburn has placed holds on at least 90 bills which he feels will unnecessarily add to the federal deficit.

Senate rules permit a senator to hold up legislation indefinitely. The Senate leadership could work around the hold but it would take many procedural votes, days of debate, and would open the bill up to amendments. Also, senators are reluctant to vote to override a hold because of Senate courtesy. They fear that if they maneuvered to override Senator Coburn’s hold, they might face similar opposition should they ever place a hold on another piece of legislation.