WASHINGTON, DC – Reporter Paul Barton who covers Capitol Hill for Gannett newspapers, including The Tennessean,    assessed  the PAST ACT‘s Act current progress along with the alternatives to it in an article appearing in today’s newspaper.

It appears that U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is exploring if a compromise is possible, but it does not appear that there is any middle ground.

Alexander also appears to be rustling the bushes over at USDA trying to see what is possible.

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) needs about 10 more Senators,  then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has to give it the green light to get to the Senate Floor.

Strangely enough,  in a Democrat controlled Senate, it appears most of the players in the PAST ACT drama are Republicans.

Presently, the PAST ACT  is stuck in House Committee with 270 House votes, but no clear path to the House Floor.

Nephew Eugene hears the votes are there in the Committee to pass it out, but there are problems with Speaker Boehner being willing to call it up for a floor vote.

There is a “Discharge Petition” Option where Congressman Whitfield could ask all the co-sponsors to sign it and if he can get 218,  then the PAST ACT comes to the House Floor for a vote.

The Most Likely scenario is for the PAST ACT to become law:

  • Get 10 more Senators to co-sponsor.
  • Get Budget Office to say cost of carrying it out will be negligible.
  • Majority Leader Harry Reid call it to a floor vote,   OR
  • The Past Act be attached as an Amendment to some other legislation that is sure to pass.
  • The PAST ACT passes the Senate.
  • Then the American People weigh in with Speaker Boehner to allow a House Vote.
  • If that fails, the Discharge Petition Option to bring it to the House Floor for a vote.

The latest official word out of Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office by an official spokesperson is:

“We are exploring all options to move the PAST Act forward at this time.”

Meanwhile,  maneuvering is going on by the sore Big Lick trying to put pressure on the USDA to either back off on enforcement of the HPA or approve a new Super HIO to replace the Celebration owned S.H.O.W. HIO which is being decertified.

Overhanging all of it is a ‘dead in the water’  sore Big Lick show season where the USDA is enforcing the Horse Protection Act to eliminate soring … not just regulate it.

And there are rumblings and discontent from concerned citizens in Shelbyville, Tennessee who are unhappy with what the ongoing Big Lick War is doing to their town and community.

Sheriff Randall Boyce,  who opposed the PAST ACT,  got decisively beaten this week in his bid for re-election. The police chief running against him got 65% of the vote.  So Sheriff Boyce can return to beef farming now.

Beford County property values have plummeted,  and it’s hard to sell horse farms these days.

This is about the best use of Calsonic Arena that has been made in quite some time.

ABOVE: Members of the Nashville Symphony play at Calsonic Arena on Tuesday night. BELOW: Shelbyville Fire Department’s honor guard stands at attention before presenting the colors at the start of the performance. See more…  >>

Nephew Eugene likes a Pops Concert almost as much as “The Diana Singing”.


Horse soring bill faces ‘narrowing window’


Supporters of legislation to address the cruel “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses worry that the issue could get crowded off this year’s congressional agenda unless it gains more momentum soon.

Although the bill has cleared a Senate committee and has 270 co-sponsors in the House, it remains in legislative limbo. Supporters say they hope for Senate passage soon to increase pressure on the House.

“There certainly is a narrowing window,” said Keith Dane, who handles equine issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

Dane noted the traditional monthlong congressional recess in August. Midterm elections this fall put other limits on the legislative calendar, with more congressional breaks looming, including Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire are exploring the possibility of a new bill that might bridge differences between them.

Alexander also has been talking to senators who were not aware that there was an alternative to Ayotte’s bill “” or that the issue was at all controversial “” when they agreed to co-sponsor it. Ayotte has 52 co-sponsors, one of the most recent being Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Alexander’s alternative bill has only four, although one of them is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Both senators say they want to end soring, the intentional infliction of pain on the legs or hooves of walking horses in order to induce a more high-stepping gait.

The New Hampshire Republican’s bill, favored by the Humane Society, cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in April. It would ban “action devices” such as special chains that rub on a spot made sore with caustic chemicals, and special pads used to inflict pain on the hooves. The bill also would put an end to industry self-policing.

Alexander’s bill preserves action devices but calls for blood tests on horses, supervised by veterinarians, to identify the use of caustic chemicals or masking agents.

An Alexander spokesman said Wednesday that the senior senator continues to believe his bill “would do a better job of stopping the contemptible practice of soring, while preserving the century-old Tennessee Walking Horse tradition.

“Senator Alexander is working with his fellow members of Congress to find a solution.”

Alexander met Wednesday with the Humane Society of the United States.

Bills ‘so far apart’

Although Ayotte’s bill cleared Senate Commerce, it has yet to reach Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. The committee is waiting for a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, which supporters expect to be negligible, before pushing it forward.

To bring it to the Senate floor, Reid, of Nevada, will have to be convinced the issue either is of national importance or would be relatively noncontroversial.

“They are very much aware of the bill, and we hope (they) will give it floor time,” Dane said.

That McConnell co-sponsors Alexander’s bill further complicates the picture, observers say. Reid might not be willing to defy McConnell by bringing Ayotte’s bill to the floor if he sees soring as only a local or regional issue.

Dane said he saw little possibility for compromise between Ayotte and Alexander.

“The bills are so far apart in their seeming intent and component parts, it’s hard to see what to negotiate on,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee’s other Republican senator, has not said which bill he supports. He continues to follow them both and remains committed to ending any mistreatment of horses, he said through a representative.

In the House, the Humane Society backs an equivalent to Ayotte’s bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

Although Whitfield’s bill has 270 co-sponsors, including 98 Republicans, it has yet to clear the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it is opposed by the committee’s vice chairwoman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood.

“The fact that Rep. Blackburn is on the committee does present some obstacles, I’m sure,” Dane said.

Blackburn, like Alexander, has her own bill that preserves action devices and self-policing. Her office declined to answer questions about whether she would block consideration of Whitfield’s bill.

Contact Paul C. Barton at pbarton@gannett. Follow on Twitter @PaulCBarton.

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