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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Brownwood's Republican Mike Conaway votes in favor of Slaghtering Horses for Human Consumption.

How Texans voted on horse-slaughter measure
The Associated Press
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday on a measure to ban horse slaughter.

Of the 432 House members, voting yes were 156 Democrats, 106 Republicans and one independent. There are two vacancies in the 435-member House.

Voting no were 36 Democrats and 110 Republicans. Here's how Texas reps voted.

The Texas breakdown: Eight Democrats and two Republicans voted yes, while three Democrats and 16 Republicans opposed the ban.

Texas Democrats - Henry Cuellar, Laredo, N; Lloyd Doggett, Austin, Y; Chet Edwards, Waco, N; Charles Gonzalez, San Antonio, Y; Al Green, Houston, Y; Gene Green, Houston, Y; Ruben Hinojosa, Mercedes, N; Shiila Jackson-Lee, Houston, Y; E.B. Johnson, Dallas, Y; Solomon Ortiz, Corpus Christi, Y; Silvestre Reyes, El Paso, Y.

Texas Republicans - Joe Barton, Arlington, N; Henry Bonilla, San Antonio, N; Kevin Brady, The Woodlands, N; Michael Burgess, Flower Mound, Y; John Carter, Round Rock, N; K. Michael Conaway, Midland, N; John Culberson, Houston, N; Louie Gohmert, Tyler, N; Kay Granger, Fort Worth, N; Ralph Hall, Rockwall, Y; Jeb Hensarling, Dallas, N; Sam Johnson, Plano, X; Kenny Marchant, Coppell, N; Michael McCaul, Austin, N; Randy Neugebauer, Lubbock, N; Ron Paul, Surfside, N; Ted Poe, Humble, N; Pete Sessions, Dallas, N; Lamar Smith, San Antonio, N; Mac Thornberry, Clarendon, N.
A "yes" vote (Y) is a vote to pass the bill; (N) is "no"; 'X' denotes those not voting.

September 5, 2006

Horse slaughter bill reaches trail’s end
By Elana Schor
The lobbying battle over banning horse slaughter for human consumption will move to the House floor this week as celebrity supporters square off against agricultural groups and members temporarily abandon election-year partisanship to consider the bill.

Consuming horsemeat is uncommon among Americans but remains an accepted practice overseas, creating a small market for three U.S.-based horse-slaughter plants. Reps. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) have secured a promise from GOP leaders for a Thursday vote on their plan to close those plants and halt government-sanctioned horse killing. But the bill has run into a surprising amount of opposition in a culture built on pony rides and cowboy movies.

Former Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), now lobbying for a coalition of farm and veterinary groups seeking to bring down the bill, questioned why a bill banning horse slaughter merits floor time on one of the few legislative days remaining in the House’s crowded September session.

“A large number of members are surprised it’s coming to a vote,” Stenholm contended last week.

But the bill has broad support. Sweeney and Whitfield have joined with Democrats to round up more than 200 cosponsors after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sidestepped their amendment last year aimed at blocking funding for the slaughter plants.

Both factions have spent the August recess countering each other’s talking points, but the anti-slaughter contingent will benefit from an infusion of star power this week as actress Bo Derek, country legend Willie Nelson and Texas oil magnate T. Boone Pickens step up their promotion of the bill. Derek, Pickens and Nelson’s daughter are slated to appear at public rallies today.

“We’re making an all-out push,” Whitfield said in an interview. He acknowledged the strong opposition of Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who reported the bill unfavorably, but noted that the floor vote “demonstrate[s] that House leadership is willing to go against committee chairmen to bring a bill up that has never had an opportunity to see the light of day.”

In addition to Stenholm, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and a host of state commodity groups have mobilized against the slaughter ban. The need to shelter and feed horses otherwise destined for processing would present an unnecessary fiscal burden, they argue, and horse owners who rely on government-inspected plants as a humane disposal method would be forced to resort to more cruel solutions if the bill passes.

“The problem comes in when the actual legislation isn’t given consideration aside from the emotional aspect,” said Goodlatte spokeswoman Alise Kowalski. “It doesn’t address the welfare of horses if they can’t be disposed of. This argument really is not about killing horses, it’s about what happens to horses after they are slaughtered.”

If a horse could be used for riding, farming or any other activity, “you would be selling it for a whole lot more than $200 to $300” to a slaughter plant, said Brent Gattis, a former Agriculture Committee deputy chief of staff who is lobbying against the measure alongside Stenholm.

Gattis also pointed to the bill as a possible precedent for banning slaughter of veal calves and other livestock, pointing to the role of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other controversial animal-activist groups.

But Chris Heyde, a Republican lobbyist for the Society for Animal Protection Legislation, noted that PETA has taken no position on the bill and scoffed at Stenholm’s argument that Congress should not legislate the morals of foreign horse-eating nations.

“That’s a hoot … to say, ‘Who are we to tell other cultures what they can and can’t do?’” Heyde said. “We’ve got a lot of hardworking Americans sitting in Iraq right now. Drugs and prostitution are legal in other parts of the world.”

The emotional and politically charged lobbying has spilled onto the Internet, where both sides have set up websites: pro-slaughter and anti-slaughter The pro-slaughter team’s site was hacked just before July’s Agriculture and Energy and Commerce Committee hearings on the bill, Stenholm said, directing visitors to anti-slaughter home pages.

Stenholm’s status as the Agriculture panel’s retired ranking member has made him a magnet for criticism from anti-slaughter lobbyists, who see him as aligned with Goodlatte.

“I think he’s just yukking it up over there with his old friends at the committee,” said one K Street Republican backing the bill, decrying exaggerated claims that the ban would leave “unwanted horses … running around the streets like cows in Calcutta.”

Agricultural industry opponents of the bill also have been contacting members during recess in a bid to convince enough cosponsors to defeat the bill. They believe they need to convince 52 supporters to vote against it, based on last year’s appropriations vote.

Yet Sweeney Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Carlson said the USDA regulation that resulted from that legislative effort ended up bolstering the bill’s prospects, helping Sweeney convince GOP leaders that the department had achieved “an end run around Congress” and that the slaughter ban deserved a vote. Sweeney, an appropriator, ultimately voted against that agriculture appropriations bill in protest of how the USDA was going to implement his amendment.

Another famous horse-lover, Kinky Friedman, the freewheeling singer and novelist turned independent gubernatorial candidate in Texas, said he is watching the bill’s progress with interest.

“If they can do it, it’s going to be great,” Friedman said of the slaughter ban’s congressional backers. “I’ve got a lot more faith in what Texans can do.”

In fact, if the bill fails, Friedman plans to mount a vigorous state-level lobbying campaign to close the Lone Star State’s two horse-slaughter plants. Friedman has already enlisted three powerful allies in Nelson, Oscar-winning actor Robert Duvall and TV star Larry Hagman, a coalition he dubbed the “Four Horsemen of Texas.”

“[The bill’s opponents’] motto is ‘from the stable to the table.’ Our motto is, ‘save a horse, ride a cowboy,’” Friedman quipped.