The ´clay pigeon amendment´ explained

Three or four weeks ago, I noted Uncle Harry's plan to bring the immigration bill (S 1384) to a final vote.

It involved the exquisitely named device of the clay pigeon amendment.

The bill itself was surely dead on departure. But the shenanigan, like the melody, lingers on.

I was foggy about the mechanics of the CPA back then, and did not expect the fog to lift anytime soon.

But - like the Big Vowel sang -

Fairy tales can come true...

Thus, Durbin's mouthpiece, Joe Shoemaker, took time out to mark our cards. (It's in a corny dialogue with a dope format that grates. But - it's the only game in town.)

(I've yet to parse all of his offering - it's evidently meant for those more clued up than I am (or who pretend they are!). But - it's great to have such a nice juicy bone to gnaw at!)

The immigration text (previously in S 1384, as amended) was now wrapped in S 1639.

Last time out, I identified the rule under which an amendment could be divided; but could not figure quite why the division was needed; or how Uncle Harry could ensure that all parts of said divided amendment could get voted on.

Joe gives us a clue. First question:

Except by unanimous consent, you can only have one first-degree perfecting amendment pending at a time...

During our previous consideration of the immigration bill, Republicans repeatedly objected to our requests for unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendments so that more amendments could be offered. This obstructionist strategy created a self-fulfilling prophesy: They wouldn't let additional amendments be offered and then complained that not enough of their amendments were being considered and therefore they would oppose cloture.

Here we get our first problem: just like the cure for love is marriage (so they say...) the cure for an amendment blockage is to vote on the amendment.

Why would a pending amendment need to be set aside to leave the floor open to a further amendment? Of course, some senators might be blocking the pending amendment (call it a filibuster); in which case, the supporters of other amendments would be keen to support cloture on the pending amendment. Wouldn't they?

OK - let's leave that one.

Assume that the GOP could gum up the works just by refusing a UCA to set aside a pending amendment; and that the clay pigeon is the thing to shift the blockage.

(I'm also unclear what exactly set aside means in the context; presumably it means that the amendment in question will be voted on in a bunch with all the other amendments. But - like I said...)

Here's Joe on clay pigeon mechanics:

...each Division [of the blown-apart amendment] will become its own free-standing amendment. Only one Division can be pending at a time, and each is subject to potential second-degree amendments, Budget Act points of order, and, post-cloture, points of order for being non-germane.

Um, second-degree amendments?

Technically, yes. But I expect that we will fill the tree on each Division as it becomes pending.

So how will these 20+ smaller amendments be disposed of?

Once the omnibus amendment is divided, Division I will be pending. (Division I is simply the first smaller amendment that appears chronologically within the larger, original amendment. Pages 1 to whatever. Division II is the next, and so on.)

There is no way to force an up-or-down vote on an amendment (except by unanimous consent). However, a motion to table is non-debatable and can be made at any time. Therefore, it is most likely that at some point, as early as Tuesday afternoon, a motion will be made to table Division I.

Now, you'll recall from the dim and distant past that there were a number of amendments proposed to S 1384 which were backed up thanks to the GOP; some of amendments from Dem senators, some from GOP.

You might have thought, a priori, that some commanded a majority and some did not. Clearly, those that did not could be dealt with via a motion to table. But then, they could have been tabled without the clay pigeon.Those that did - well, I'm not clear that the clay pigeon helps: they still needed cloture, surely? Joe agrees with that proposition:

If at any point a tabling motion is unsuccessful, we're stuck - we still can not adopt the amendment or force an up-or-down vote on it (except by UC) and we can't proceed to further Divisions while this one is pending (again, except by UC).

Filling the amendment tree (which I've discussed before here) bars second-degree amendments but doesn't help passage of the first-degree amendment.

Fine. Now - what about cloture on S 1639 itself?

We expect Senator Reid to file cloture on Tuesday for a Thursday morning cloture vote. As usual, if cloture is invoked, we would begin the 30-hour post-cloture clock.

All the while, they'd be working through the Divisions of the shot-apart clay pigeon.

And - when the 30 hour postcloture debate is over -

at that point, we would proceed to vote on any pending germane Divisions (the vaunted vote-a-rama). So a Division on which a tabling motion failed likely would be adopted at this point, by a majority vote.

Well, as we know, cloture on the bill failed to pass 46-53, so there was no postcloture debate.

I do not understand - and leave for another time - why the vote-a-rama is triggered by the ending of the 30 hour period: I'd expect that amendments not voted would fall. But I'd certainly not rely on Mr A Priori on this point, or any other.

Tags: Clay Pigeon Amendment, S 1384, S 1639 (all tags)



Re: The clay pigeon amendment explained

When ordinary citizens can't understand how laws are made, it's time to jettison the whole process. The Founding Fathers didn't need all this falderal.

by billybob 2007-07-07 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: The clay pigeon amendment explained

Trying to do me out of a job? ;)

by skeptic06 2007-07-07 01:57PM | 0 recs


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