Friday, July 24, 2009

How Will 1018 Move to the Senate?

I have been asked to explain the process that a bill takes once it passes the House and moves to the Senate. Specifically, HR 1018, the ROAM Act. Hopefully this will be helpful for those who want to follow the bills, but find the process confusing.

Once a bill passes in the House it is sent to the Senate. Once it arrives in the Senate (the paperwork usually take a day or two) it is read into the record. For a bill to become law it must be read into the record three times. HR 1018 was read into the record twice. The bill will then be assigned to a committee.

The committee HR 1018 was assigned to is the Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman. Then it will be assigned to a sub-committee. HR 1018 will be assigned to if it isn't already is the Public Lands and Forest chaired by Senator Ron Wyden. The sub-committee will debate, hold hearings, vote on the bill to return it to the committee or table it (kill it). Once it passes the sub-committee, the full committee will debate it, hold hearings (if not already held) and then they will decide to pass it to the Senate floor or return it to the sub-committee for further action (kill it).

Since Congress has so many bills introduced each year they depend on the committees to determine if a bill is worty of passage. If a bill has the weight of a committee behind it is given more credence. However, since there are so many bills pending and because of resrictions on committee meetings few bills go to the floor. In fact, only one in six bills ever make it out of committee. The committees also have the authority to fully rewrite the bill, or "clean" it. Amendments can also be attached, even if they have nothing to do with the bill. If the bill is substantially different from the bill passed by the House it will then go to another committee, but I am getting ahead of myself.

If a bill passes committee they will send it to the floor with a report. It would then be scheduled for a vote. However, nothing in Congress is that easy. The bill then becomes vulnerable to a filibuster. In the old days a filibuster was when a Senator stood up and talked for hours and hours to block the vote on a bill. Today the rules of the Senate allow filibusters that can last days and even months if renewed and the bill cannot come up for a vote during that time. They are also virtually invisible because the Senator can block the bill without being seen doing so. Officially it takes 14 Senators' signatures to filibuster. However, it has happened with as few as 5. To over-ride a filibuster opposing Senators need to obtain cloture. Cloture ends a filibuster and takes the signatures of 60 Senators. Filibusters and cloture are "freedoms" that no other legislature in the world possesses except in the United States.

If a bill does manage to come up for a vote it is vulnerable to unlimited amendments and debate. (Remember that amendments do not have to be related to the bill to be considered.) That is unless a Senator calls for Unanimous Consent. This limits debate and the offering of amendments and must be brokered in advance with leadership. If it passes then it either goes to the President or to Conference Committee.

A bill is sent to Conference Committee if the wording is different in the Senate and House version of the bill. The committee is charged with resolving the difference, but they can also do more. This is where Senator Conrad Burns added the infamous Burns Amendment. It was done without most of the committe's being aware of it. The Omnibus bill it was attached to was very large with over 1000 pages and the need for a quick vote prevented most members from reading it fully. Once the committee resolves the wording the bill then goes to the House and Senate for a vote. In the case of the Burns Amendment the vote was rushed there too as it contained the budget for the entire government, so it is doubtful that they could have or would have rejected it.

Once the full language of the bill passes both Senate and House it goes to the President to sign or veto. If signed it becomes law. If vetoed it goes back to Congress to see if they can over-ride the veto.

As anyone can see man things can go wrong on the Senate side. This is why it is important to focus all of our attention and efforts there, especially with HR 1018. This is why events like the recent Horses on the Hill and our Month of the Horse in DC are so important. Letters and calls are great, but one has to remember that the opposition has professional lobbyists on the Hill every day. These lobbyists have face to face meetings, make personal connections with lawmakers and aides and can take lawmakers out to eat, they can throw them parties, they can donate to their campaigns and influence them. We can't do any of these things, but we can show that we are there, that we are united and that we aren't going away. We can also make those personal connections and have face to face meetings.

The opposition always claims that we are more influential, funded and organized. That is untrue. They have had decades to organize and they are far more well funded than our side. That is why we MUST understand that we need to fund legislative efforts as much as hands on rescue. Without the pending laws we face issues that can and should be resolved with their passage.

I hope this helps someone. If anyone has any further questions let me know and I will do my best to answer them.

Month of the Horse in DC

A few years ago Congress declared a day in Dec. the Day of the Horse. The AHDF would like to declare Sept. 2009 the Month of the Horse in DC. We would like to see horse advocates on the Hill speaking for our horses EVERY DAY in Sept that Congress is in session. This could make a big impact toward seeing our bills passed. We are looking for groups and individuals to spend 3-5 days in DC lobbying. It could be any week, but we do need at least 5-10 folks there every week. (If you are a horse owner PLEASE seriously consider attending as it adds credibility to our cause.) This is a great opportunity for folks to see how Congress works, have a chance to speak their minds on the pending bills and a chance to make a difference. We are also looking for 3 individuals or groups to lead the efforts during the week they attend. The leaders will need to have lobbying experience and be available during the week to mentor and assist the other group members.

This is NOT just and AHDF event. We would seriously LOVE for all the groups to come together in support of the bills. So, please pass this info along to other groups that you may know. If we all speak as one voice we CAN make a difference! Think how powerful it would be to walk into these offices and say you are representing your group, the AHDF, and other groups and individuals attending!

If you are interested in being a part of Month of the Horse in DC please email me so I can coordinate the events and negotiate discounts on hotels. If we are not coordinated this event will fall flat and not have the impact we need to make, so please at least let me know you will be in DC during this time. My email addy is

On another note. To pull all this together AHDF is going to need funds for materials and other expenses. PLEASE consider donating or sending in your dues today. The AHDF is seriously operating in a deficit and we need your help to accomplish our goals. Donations can be made via Paypal by using the email address of or by mailing donations to PO Box 328 Covington, TN 38019 or 1718 M St NW Unit 191 Washington, DC 20036. If everyone who reads this post will donate at least $5-$10 we could pull this off. Thank you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One Voice

This post is going to start a little strange, but please bear with me while I make my point.

My family and I took a little vacation. So, when I got home I needed some time to recover. (Ask any parent of kids who has spent over 23 hours in the car with their little darlings if they also didn't need a few days of downtime afterward.) Anyway, during my down time I watched the Michael Jackson memorial. It was really moving in parts and the music was good. A fitting tribute to a man who wasn't perfect, but entertained the world for decades. They also talked about all the good work he had done in his life including being recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for supporting the most charities, something I had no idea he had done. During the memorial, they had a screen showing pictures of Jackson as well as notable things he had said.

I soon noticed one particular phrase kept showing up, "There's nothing that can't be done if we raise our voice as one". It was something Jackson said regarding his work to help children worldwide. It struck me that this applies to any movement for change, especially ours for equine welfare. If we all pulled together our various strengths and voices we could move the world. However, sometimes we get caught up in petty disagreements and arguments over things that at the end of the day don't matter. Who the heck cares if one rescue will adopt to people who have barb wire fences? At the end of the day if the home is a good one the fence doesn't matter that much and it is a horse out of danger. Who cares who says what about PZP? At the end of the day the issue is that the wild horses and burros are fast disappearing from our public lands. The big issues are the ones we all agree on. Horses should be treated humanely and we want to protect and preserve our wild horses and burros. That's the important part.

Each of us do our best to do the right thing and every little part helps. Why are we fighting each other so often that we lose sight of the important issues? We don't have to agree on every little thing and we shouldn't. We should strive to make things better, but by disagreeing and petty fighting we aren't focused on the bigger picture; horses being mistreated, the extinction of our wild horses and burros, horse slaughter... Sure, in a perfect world horses would go to homes with horse safe fencing (whatever that is), but the bigger picture is that that the horse has been saved from slaughter or an abusive home. We aren't in a place where we can shoot for perfect, right now we need to solve the bigger problems first. If we can all just try to remember that we are all doing the best we can and accept that then perhaps we can avoid some of the problems. Trust until that trust is broken.

If we look at the new pro-slaughter and anti-wild horse group that came from no where we can see that they are setting aside their differences and working together against the horses. They are much better organized and much better funded than our side is. They claim that they represent horse owners, but they don't really. The AHDF membership is made up of 90% horse owners and 15% of those also run rescue facilities. Our organization, as well as others, represents horse owners as much, if not more, than their organization does. However, they organized and have raised their voices and they are being heard over ours, so we need to be stronger and raise our voices louder. We CAN do it, we just need to unite on our common goals and set aside our differences.

It is one thing to use smaller issues, such as your organization's position on fences, to garner donations or supporters. It is another thing to run down an organization who has a different opinion. The first allows donors and supporters an alternative organization to support, but the second is divisive when we most need to be united. I personally love that there are so many organizations offering alternatives to supporters. It allows the public a chance to support the organization that most closely reflects their own personal position while providing information about the bigger issues. It helps get that information out there. But, there is never a need to run down an organization to prop up another one. We are all trying to do the same thing, help the horses. Every organization can and should distinguish themselves from the others, but not at another's expense. Regardless of your position on the proper type of fences, the goal of all the organizations is to have well adjusted and healthy animals inside of those fences.

If we can finally raise our voices as one we can accomplish all we set out to do. It is time to pull together and speak for the animals who can't speak for themselves. It is time for our voices to become one in the overarching issues we can all agree on. Let's raise them loud enough they can no longer be ignored and make those changes we have all wanted for so long.