Prohibition on the sale of wild horses for meat (H.R. 249)/Motion to recommit with instructions to include language prohibiting the legislation from taking effect until the Interior secretary certifies that the long-term cost of caring for horses in federal facilities does not exceed $500,000 annually
house Roll Call 268 Apr 26, 2007
This vote was on a motion to force a vote on an amendment to a bill to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from selling for meat horses that roam wildly on federal lands or currently are in federal holding facilities. Proposed by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the amendment would prohibit the legislation from going into effect until 60 days after the Interior secretary certifies to Congress that the long-term cost of caring for the animals not sold as a result of the bill does not exceed $500,000 annually.
In effect, Price's move was a way to gut the legislation. A previous attempt by Price to do so failed (see Roll Call 267).
This time, Price used a parliamentary tool called a motion to recommit with instructions, which, if passed, would have sent the legislation back to committee with specific directions to amend the bill.
Under current law, the bureau can sell wild horses that have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three times or are over 10 years old for $10 per animal. The provision was put into place through an amendment sneaked into a 2005 appropriations bill by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.).
According to Price, it costs BLM roughly $25 million a year to feed and shelter roughly 30,000 wild horses in its management program. In 2006, 100,000 horses were slaughtered for consumption, mostly to be shipped overseas.
"As of December 2004, 8,400 wild horses and burros became eligible for sale, and as of April 2007, the Bureau of Land Management has sold more than 2,300 horses," Price said. "If the remaining horses which are available for sale are safe for long-term care, then the secretary should be required to clarify that the care will not create an undue financial burden on the American people."
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) first chastised Price for offering his proposal as a motion to recommit instead of as a straight-up amendment to the bill, which would have been allowable under the rules for consideration. Motions to recommit are often used as parliamentary tools to legislate by surprise, as there is no requirement that the lawmaker (usually a member of the minority party) show the motion to anyone before offering it, a procedure that is required for regular amendments.
On the substance of Price's proposal, Rahall pointed out that there was no time limit on how long the secretary of Interior can take to certify to Congress that the care of unsold horses won't exceed $500,000.
"I am assuming that the gentleman is entrusting the same federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management, that has so mismanaged this whole process in the beginning, entrusting with that agency the same responsibility to do such certification," Rahall pointed out. "Again, there is no time limit. It could be 30 days, it could be 30 years, it could be 300 years before the secretary so certifies.
"So the amendment is purely a killer amendment," Rahall concluded.
Price's motion to recommit was easily defeated, with 39 Republicans joining all but 26 Democrats in voting against it. The proposal found support from some Democrats from Western states. Thus, by a vote of 182 to 234, the House rejected an amendment to require that the secretary of Interior certify that a bill to ban the slaughter of wild horses for meat not cost the federal government more than $500,000 annually for the care of the unsold horses - a provision designed to gut the bill. The legislation moved towards a final vote without language effectively nullifying it.
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