Filling the Tree, Blocking Amendments

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has consistently employed the tactic of “filling the amendment tree” as a means of blocking Republican amendments to legislation. At any given time, the Senate may only consider a certain number of amendments to a bill or to other amendments. Their order of priority can be depicted on a chart that looks like a number of branches coming from a tree trunk. When each line has an amendment, the “tree” is full and no other amendment can be offered. The Senate Majority Leader has the right to be recognized first in a debate, so he can repeatedly offer amendments—whether they are substantial or not—to fill the tree. Republicans, naturally, have been fuming about Senator Reid’s aggressive use of the tactic, but it also blocks Democratic amendments.

National Journal: A Tree Grows in Dirksen: How Democrats are Keeping Republicans Out of the Amendment Process

Supporting Vulnerable Democrats

Whenever Senator Reid fills the amendment tree, he blocks Democratic amendments to bills in addition to Republican measures. Thus, the Democratic leadership must take particular care to ensure that vulnerable incumbents have a record of achievements to run on. In the face of the 2014 midterm elections, the leadership is making provisions for a number of their endangered Members. According to Politico, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “We try to showcase our members who are up for reelection so they have a chance to shine and show what they believe in, why they are seeking reelection in their states”. A number of these Democrats are advancing legislation that is popular in their home states. For instance, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas is sponsoring a bill to ensure that citizens will be eligible for Medicare at age 65, rather than 70, which a proposal his opponent supports would do. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire is supporting an energy efficiency bill that would go over well back home. Other Democrats are working on measures that would appeal to their constituents as well.

Politico: Senate Leaders Give Floor Time to Vulnerable Democrats

Senator Scott Brown to Run…in New Hampshire

Senator Jeanne Shaheen should hope that her energy efficiency proposal earns the respect of voters back home, because it looks like she’ll have a notable opponent: former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, now of New Hampshire. He is expected to announce his candidacy on Thursday. Although he is open to charges of carpetbaggery, it’s not unheard of for a Senator to represent multiple states. Senator James Shields represented three: Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. Senator Waitman T. Willey represented both Virginia and West Virginia.

The Hill: Scott Brown to Announce NH Bid Thursday

Millenial Congressional Bid

Senator Scott Brown will be a high-profile candidate for Congress, making for an interesting campaign. Another noteworthy candidate is Nick Troiano of Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about him is his age—he’s part of the Millenial generation, which includes those born in the early 1980s through the early 2000s. Troiano is running as an independent, reflecting a tendency that some researchers say distinguishes the generation from their parents. According to Ron Fournier, “Troiano believes that millennials will be more likely than their parents and grandparents to make the hard choices required to tame the U.S. debt, reduce income inequality, increase economic mobility, fight climate change, and reform 20th-century political institutions that favor an ossified two-party system.” Troiano is unlikely to win, but his candidacy might be an insight into how future leaders think and act.

No Party for This Young Man: A Millenial Storms the Gates of Washington

How Can President Barack Obama Initiate Immigration Reform?

Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a major supporter of immigration reform, has said he thinks President Barack Obama will use various Executive actions to implement various policies, if the House of Representatives does not advance legislation on the matter this summer. Such actions are almost certain to provoke the wrath of congressional Republicans, who have in the past expressed mistrust of the President to enforce laws and who have also criticized the practice of delegating too much policy-making authority to the Executive Branch. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently sent the Obama Administration a document with six pages of suggestions on how he could unilaterally limit the deportation of residents who are here illegally.

Roll Call: Gutierrez: Obama Ready to Halt Deportations With Executive Orders

And for our latest post: Cracks in the Senatorial Saucer: Filling the Tree, Cloture, and Curtailing Senate Debate