10.01.2008 0

Sen. Coburn Rallying the Caucus

  • On: 10/16/2008 15:07:41
  • In: Fiscal Responsibility

  • ALG Editor’s Note:
    Last week, ALG News reported to you on a letter that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) had sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stating his opposition to an omnibus package of over 100 bills that will grow government by about $25 billion.

    Senator Coburn had stated he had 20 Republican members of the Senate to engage in a filibuster of this wasteful spending bill, and today ALG News has confirmed that indeed 20 Senators are standing firm with Mr. Coburn to oppose this legislation.

    Together, they have written a letter to Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling upon him to unite the Republican caucus against Sen. Reid’s routine practice of “filling the tree,” a process whereby legislation is brought to the floor for a vote without any opportunity to make amendments.

    Here follows that letter:

    Dear Senator McConnell:

    We are writing to urge that you take action regarding the Majority Leader’s abuse of a procedure known as “filling the tree,” which is used to exclude other Senators from offering amendments to bills brought to the Senate floor.

    As you know, the rules of the Senate – reinforced by longstanding tradition – allow all members of the Senate to play a substantial role in shaping legislation. One of the primary means by which this occurs is the ability to offer amendments, which helps to ensure that a full debate is had on the many policy options available for a given issue. Without a robust amendment process, members of the minority, in particular, have little opportunity to raise issues of importance or to improve legislation.

    In the 110th Congress, the Democrat Majority Leader has employed a tactic known as “filling the tree” at least eleven times to preclude the minority from offering any amendments on major pieces of legislation. Under normal procedure, Senators are allowed to offer an amendment to any bill, as well as an amendment to the amendment (amendments in the 2nd degree) – after which no additional amendments are allowed. Majority Leader Reid has often “filled” the amendment tree intentionally by offering first and second-degree amendments before other Senators, the effect of such a maneuver is to block all other amendments, including ones offered by Republicans.

    According to the Congressional Research Service, Majority Leader Reid has filled the tree at least eleven times on major pieces of legislation during the 110th Congress. On each of these measures, Republicans had legitimate concerns and could have improved the legislation through offering amendments, but were prevented from doing so. The result of this practice was the passage of legislation that spent hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars without any effective input from Republican members.

    One issue in particular that deserves increased attention is the rise in gas prices, which has left many Americans struggling to keep up. Unfortunately, the solutions offered by the majority are deeply flawed and would do little, if anything, to increase the supply of energy produced in this country, and therefore are unlikely to affect prices at the pump. Although the American people are calling for solutions to increase exploration, all Republican proposals to do so have been shut down before a vote could be taken because of the tactics employed by the Majority Leader. Until alternative proposals are allowed on the floor, the American public will not get relief from the high prices they are paying for gas.

    Filling the tree is certainly a permissible procedure under the rules of the Senate, but it can only be accomplished with the help of a willing minority. While we appreciate the difficulty of your position as Republican Leader, we would urge you to take a stand against the abusive way in which the majority has frozen the minority out of the legislative process by making a routine practice of filling the tree.

    We would ask that you urge our Republican colleagues to force an open amendment process on all bills for the remainder of this session. Doing so will ensure that the process is fair for all Members and that minority rights are adequately protected. Allowing the Majority Leader to block other Senators from participating in the legislative process does significant damage to the Senate’s reputation as the world’s most deliberative body.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Coburn
    Jim DeMint
    John Cornyn
    Richard Burr
    Wayne Allard
    Saxby Chambliss
    Arlen Specter
    Michael Enzi
    Norm Coleman
    Jim Bunning
    James Inhofe
    Mel Martinez
    Lindsey Graham
    Jeff Sessions
    Sam Brownback
    John Ensign
    John Sununu
    Johnny Isakson
    Orrin Hatch
    Larry Craig


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