Senate Nuked Rule XVI Before Rule XXII

The Senate frequently violates Rule XVI. But not all of those violations prompt senators to make points of order against the offensive provisions. Yet the Senate has adjudicated Rule XVI points of order in the past. In one instance, senators employed the so-called nuclear option to gut it entirely.

The disposition of an amendment offered by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Tx., to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations and Rescissions for the Department of Defense to Preserve and Enhance Military Readiness Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-6) established a precedent that superseded Rule XVI. Specifically, the Hutchison amendment sought to change federal law regarding endangered species. Harry Reid, D-NV., Reid raised a point of order that the amendment violated Rule XVI, which the Chair subsequently sustained. Senator Hutchison then appealed this ruling to the full Senate, which overturned the ruling of the Chair by a vote of 57 to 42. The Hutchison amendment was subsequently adopted by voice vote. This action created a new precedent that permitted legislating on an appropriations bill, despite the fact that the decision of the Chair was technically correct, and the Hutchison amendment was in direct violation of Rule XVI.

Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., introduced a standing order as a simple resolution (S. Res. 160) to reverse this precedent in the 106thCongress. The Senate passed S. Res. 160 on July 22, 1999 by a vote of 53 to 45. This action brought Senate practice back into compliance with the Standing Rules.