Dangerous Times on Capitol Hill

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UPDATE (MARCH 22, 2017): The budget language to "immediately" transfer wild horses to state and local agencies and to strip these animals of their federal protection was amended to prevent commercial slaughter. However, as adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate Interior Appropriations Committee, it would not prohibit the non-commercial killing of captured wild horses and burros - opening the door to the "euthanasia" of thousands of "excess" wild horses and burros by states that just want to get rid of them. The 2017 Interior Appropriations bill passed the House, but did not pass the Senate last year. Instead the Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the government at 2016 levels through April 23, 2017. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees may make another attempt to pass this bill - and the dangerous wild horse and burro provision it includes -- later this spring or summer.


June 16, 2016

Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee adopted the "Stewart Amendment" or "Section 110 language" to the 2017 Interior Appropriations bill. This language could provide a back door slaughter route for thousands of wild horses and burros by allowing their transfer to state and local agencies that actively lobby for their mass removal and slaughter. Although the amendment includes a sentence intended to prohibit their "destruction for commercial processing," the prohibition will be difficult to enforce and and does not prohibit killing the horses for non-commercial purposes. 
The only positive development at yesterday's hearing was Rep. Steve Israel's acknowledgement of our ongoing concerns about the language and his willingness to continue to work to fix the language to address these concerns. Rep. Israel has been a champion of animal welfare during his time in the house and we're certain he has the best interest of the horses and burros in mind. 
On Thursday, June 16, 2016 the Senate Appropriations Committee  held a full committee markup on the  2017 Interior Appropriations bill. You can listen to audio of the hearing here. The bill passed out of Committee on a 16-14 vote down party lines. The bad news is that the bill does contain the dangerous language authorizing BLM to turn over wild horses to state and local agencies. The good news is that, given the Democratic opposition, it is unlikely that this bill will get the 60 votes needed for cloture. Thus it is unlikely to face a floor vote.
The most likely scenario is that the Congress will not pass an Interior Appropriations Bill before the election, but rather will adopt a Continuing Resolution that cariesy over last year's budget through November.
If this scenario plays out, we will have another chance to improve or kill the transfer language when the Congress considers an omnibus spending bill in December or in January 2017, when the new Congress is seated.
Read also: BLM's 2017 Budget Opens Door for Horse Slaughter and Sterilization
Stay tuned.