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Mr. WICKER. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Tennessee for making this point. I have an amendment to this bill that I would like to have had heard. It strikes a middle ground between the unlimited per account liability and the $250,000 we have traditionally had. It is a modest compromise as well as an alternative, and it will not be considered because of the very practice my friend from Tennessee has mentioned.
It is not only our amendments--I just came in on the tail end of the Senator's remarks--but there are Democratic amendments which deserve to be heard on this bill. Senator Udall has an amendment--he is a member of the majority party--and it is a well-reasoned amendment that deserves to be considered and heard. The distinguished majority leader has chosen to fill the amendment tree and offer only his select amendments, and now I am deprived from the ability that I think a representative of several States should have; that is, to bring forth an idea and have it heard. I might not be able to get a majority on it and Senator Udall may not prevail, but we deserve to be heard.
This has been the greatest deliberative body in the world--at least that is what I heard before I came over from the House of Representatives--but it has not turned out that way. The majority leader time and time again fills the amendment trees, thereby preventing any of the other 99 Senators from offering amendments.
The Congressional Research Service has identified 40 instances in which opportunities for debating and offering amendments had already been limited by the Senate majority leader by filling or partially filling the amendment tree.
I have one more point and then I will yield back to my friend from Tennessee. We are going to miss the services and the independence of the distinguished senior Senator from Maine, Ms. Olympia Snowe. I think anyone in this body would have to admit Senator Snowe has been evenhanded, bipartisan, and often nonpartisan. She has objected to this very practice by this very majority leader, and I think it is destructive to the overall process of the Senate.
In the specific words of retiring Senator Olympia Snowe: First and foremost, the Senate should have the ability to debate more than the three amendments the majority leader is allowing. It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the Defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that Senators may wish to offer.
I have been aggrieved that my little amendment is not going to get anymore debate than these few moments right now. I know the Senator from Tennessee feels the same way, and undoubtedly Senator Udall would prefer a vote and debate on his amendment. We can fix the Senate. We can get back to the leadership we had under Mansfield and Mitchell of Maine and Lott of Mississippi and other majority leaders. We can move legislation along but not if we continue this abuse of the process by filling the amendment tree.
I will be voting with the distinguished Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from Pennsylvania on the point of order because we need to draw a bright red line there. Perhaps we can get on this issue at some other point. I hope the Senate can get back to an orderly debate on matters of substance.
I thank my friend, the Senator from Tennessee, for yielding on that point.
I yield back.
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