WASHINGTON, DC – The Tennessean Washington Bureau Chief Paul Barton reported that Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) challenged Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for the PAST ACT to go to the House Floor where Blackburn could offer any amendment to it, let the matter be debated, and allow the members vote.
Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) called up on House leadership to allow the PAST ACT to come to the floor for a vote.
Here is the Article:
Sponsor of anti-soring bill may petition for House vote
WASHINGTON ““ The lead sponsor of legislation to bolster protections for Tennessee Walking Horses against soring will consider a discharge petition to get it out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote, his office said Tuesday.
A discharge petition requires the signatures of 218 members, a majority of the House, to force floor action on a measure that supporters feel has been unfairly blocked in committee.
The bill in question is the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act HR, 1518, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and 303 other members. The identical Senate version has 57 co-sponsors, three short of the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
The Senate version has cleared committee but the House version remains trapped in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it is yet to receive a vote even though hearings were held in November 2013. There have been no floor votes in either chamber.
Soring is the practice of intentionally inflicting pain on horses to produce a higher-stepping gait during competitions.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, a PAST Act opponent, is vice chair of the powerful House panel. Blackburn has an alternative bill that she says would provide all the strengthening needed to the Horse Protection Act of 1970, the original anti-soring legislation. But critics say it would a preserve a status quo in which soring often takes place.
“Congressman Whitfield is considering a discharge petition but would much rather have the legislation go regular order, and allow Rep. Marsha Blackburn to offer any amendment she may have, and debate the issue on the House floor,” said Marty Irby, spokesman for the Kentucky Republican.
“This would allow the will of the people to be heard, and then a vote cast to see where the majority stands. We can’t imagine why anyone would be against this and have expressed our thoughts to leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Blackburn’s office, when asked about Whitfield’s offer, reissued the statement she released on July 3. In it, she said, “those on the other side have refused to come together and work with us in finding a solution that would eliminate bad actors. Instead, their only focus has been to simply eliminate the walking horse industry altogether.”
PAST Act supporters face a ticking clock. Only a limited number of legislative days are left before members go home around the first of October to finish re-election campaigning. They have a month-long recess in August.
When asked if Whitfield had taken his case to House Speaker John Boehner or any other Republican leaders, Irby said: “Congressman Whitfield has had ongoing discussions with all of the leadership about moving the bill forward and will pull out all the stops to move the PAST Act to floor, at the appropriate time.”
Meanwhile, Whitfield picked up a prominent supporter in the bill’s 115th Republican sponsor — Rep. Don Young of Alaska.
Young has been in Congress since 1973 and is the second-ranking GOP member in terms of seniority. He is a past chairman of several major committees.
The bill is now only short three Republicans of having a majority of GOP members. A majority of the majority is an informal rule that leaders sometimes use to decide when to permit a floor vote.
In the Tennessee delegation, only Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, have yet to take sides.
Corker said he is waiting for “committee” review of the alternative soring bill introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, also a Republican. Corker doesn’t say whether he means the Commerce Committee, which has already acted, or another panel.
Clant Seay, an Oxford, Miss. attorney and PAST Act advocate, called for Corker to declare himself.
“We respect Senator Corker’s responsibility to the citizens of Tennessee to get this one right,” Seay said.
“He is an independent thinker and not in anybody’s hip pocket. The fact that he has not co-sponsored Lamar Alexander’s alternative bill speaks volumes.”
Cooper, while not signing on as a co-sponsor, called Tuesday for House Republican leaders to let Whitfield’s bill come to a vote. “Even with a Republican leading the charge, a bill with more than 300 co-sponsors can’t get a vote. House leadership should let members work their will,” he said.
The only member of the Tennessee delegation co-sponsoring Whitfield’s bill is Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis. All seven House Republicans from the state are behind Blackburn’s bill, providing the majority of its 12 co-sponsors.
Those lobbying for Whitfield’s bill continued to express confidence in his stewardship.
“I’m sure he’d explore every option for getting his bill over the finish line,” said Keith Dane, who handles equine issues for the Humane Society of the United States.
And Seay said: “We’ve depended upon Congressman Whitfield’s leadership to get the bill this far. We have confidence in Congressman Whitfield’s expertise in the House to get the bill to the floor for a vote.”
Contact Paul C. Barton at email@example.com and on Twitter @PaulCBarton.
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