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Monday, April 8, 2013

Filling the Amendment Tree in the Senate

Christopher M. Davis
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

“Amendment trees” are charts that illustrate certain principles of precedence which guide the Senate amendment process. When all of the amendments permitted simultaneously by these principles have been offered and are pending, an amendment tree is said to be “filled,” and no additional amendments may be offered until one or more of those pending is disposed of or laid aside. Given that the presiding officer traditionally affords the Senate majority leader or his designee priority over all others in being recognized, a majority leader can repeatedly secure recognition and “fill the amendment tree” himself by sequentially offering all of the amendments permitted under applicable circumstances. By doing so, a leader can “freeze” the amendment process in place, blocking additional floor amendments, at least temporarily. A majority leader might “fill the tree” in this way to prevent the offering of or voting on of non-germane amendments, to try to speed consideration of a measure, or to control the subject or sequence of amendments that may be offered. In a colloquy entered into in the 112th Congress (2011-2012), the Senate majority and minority leaders pledged to use the parliamentary device of filling the amendment tree “infrequently.” In 2013, the Senate adopted a standing order, in force for the duration of the 113th Congress (2013-2014), which establishes a new optional process of proceeding to consider legislation that structures the offering of the first four amendments to the bill in a specific order mandated in the standing order, a process which, when used, could have implications for a majority leader’s ability to fill the amendment tree.

Date of Report: March 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 7
Order Number: RS22854
Price: $19.95

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