This was a vote on the House passage of H.R. 1018, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act. The legislation was enacted, in large part, in response to a Bureau of Land Management announcement that it intended to kill 30,000 healthy horses and burros in its care and a Government Accountability Office review documenting many shortcomings in the federal horse and burro program.
Rep. Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee that developed the bill, said it will prevent the killing of the animals and make the horse and burro program more cost-efficient. Rahall also said it will require consistency in management planning, better methods for calculating the number of animals on the range, strengthen the adoption program so that many more eligible horses and burros can be adopted, and authorize cooperative agreements with individuals and nonprofits so that large numbers of animals might be moved onto non-federal land.
Rahall emphasized that the bill “contains no direct spending . . . Any increase in funding for the wild horse and bureau program would be the result of appropriations, not this authorization bill. Increasing the number of federal acres available to horses and burros from the current 13 percent of Bureau of Land Management land back to the 20 percent available to them in 1971 (as the bill does) should not cost the taxpayers anything.”
Rep. Hastings (R-WA), the Ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee that developed the bill, was leading the opposition to it. He asked rhetorically “what is the response of this Democrat Congress to month after month of lost jobs, record unemployment, out-of-control spending, and skyrocketing deficits? Their response is to vote on a bill to create a $700 million welfare program for wild horses and burros . . . if the American people want an illustration of just how out of touch this Congress has become on spending, they need to look no further than what's happening here on the floor of the House with this issue of wild horses and burros.” Hastings claimed that, when the Republicans controlled the House, they stopped the slaughter of horses and burros with $500,000, but that the Democrats are now doing it with a $700 million bill.
Rep. Lummis (R-WY) also opposed the bill, noting the wild horses were not native to the lands on which they graze and that they do great damage to it. She said the bill “is based on emotion and not science”, and elevates “wild horses above threatened and endangered (plant and animal) species”. Lummis noted that it was opposed by the Wyoming Nature Conservancy and Wyoming’s Democratic governor. Rep Moran (D-VA), a bill supporter, responded by saying: “(T)he Bureau of Land Management's program really isn't working very well. This bill is a much better alternative and The U.S. Geological Survey, the Journal of Wildlife Management, and the General Accountability Office all agree that this (bill) saves more than $6 million as well as saving 30,000 horses.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 239-185. Two hundred and six Democrats and thirty-three Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and thirty-eight Republicans and forty-seven Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the Restore Our American Mustangs Act.