Essentially, the “tree” represents the total amendments which are included on a particular bill, up to eleven 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 eleven different amendments, up to a six-day delay…
This has become a pattern, much to Republicans’ chagrin. “Over the past number of years, the majority has called up a bill and then immediately filed cloture as if we were filibustering, when we don’t have any intention to filibuster. All we want is to be able to call up amendments,” Hatch said last week. “But, in addition to filing cloture, the majority will fill the tree, making [it] impossible for anyone to call up an amendment. Frankly, this is not the way to run the Senate.”