If you've been paying attention to the Senate floor recently, you've likely heard a Republican senator complaining about the "amendment tree," another tool used by the Democratic majority to prevent Republicans from presenting their own proposals for a vote.
Lately, the tree seems to be bearing more than its share of Democratic fruit, Republicans complain.
"When the Senate Democratic leadership decides to bring a bill to the floor, far more often than not we are blocked from offering any amendments," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on the floor last week.
Essentially, the "tree" represents all the amendments that are included in a particular bill; up to 11 are accepted. Of late, the Democratic majority has taken to "filling the tree" on major pieces of legislation, leaving no room for Republican proposals.
Many of these Democratic proposals are filler, making infinitesimal changes to bills that often don't end up becoming law anyway. The bulk of them are second-degree amendments, which is to say, amendments of amendments. When one falls, the others topple like dominoes. But that's typically reserved for the last minute, leaving Republicans no time to replace them with their own.
These amendments typically make very small, and sometimes even conflicting, changes to the underlying bill. One of Reid's amendments filed on the unemployment-insurance extension bill, which is expected to pass the Senate on Monday, for example, changes the enactment date of the legislation to one day after the president signs the bill. Another changes it to two days after the bill is enacted, a third to three days, and on and on over the course of 11 different amendments, up to a six-day delay.