R Sheet on forcing votes
Today’s majority leaders exercise unprecedented control over the Senate floor.
They do so to prevent their colleagues from offering amendments without their prior approval.
Leaders block amendments by filling the amendment tree or offering a so-called “blocker” amendment to legislation pending on the floor.
But senators have two ways to force action on their amendments and these can be a source of leverage in negotiations with the majority leader.
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In recent years, Senate majorities have used an assortment of rules and practices to exert greater control over legislative process in the institution. The principal means by which they establish such control is their ability to block the consideration of unwanted amendments on the Senate floor.
But minority senators are not powerless. They can challenge the majority leader’s efforts to block consideration of their amendments by offering so-called third-degree amendments or by making a motion to proceed to standalone legislation. When used properly, these options can give senators leverage to extract concessions in negotiations with the majority leader over when and how the Senate will deal with their proposals.
In recent years, the methods employed by Senate majorities to block unwanted amendments have become complicated and diverse. The majority leader can prevent votes on these amendments by filling the amendment tree or otherwise offering a blocker amendment to legislation pending on the floor.
However, frustrated senators have two weapons at their disposal to force votes on their amendments, despite the majority leader’s opposition. If used properly, the options below give them leverage to extract concessions regarding when and how the Senate will deal with their proposal.