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Can PAST Act Go To Vote?



Over the last several months, the PAST Act introduced by Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) has gained additional co-sponsors from states not affected by the Tennessee Walking Horse.  Other than Congressman Whitfield no other Republican congressman from Tennessee or Kentucky is in support of the PAST Act.  However the PAST Act has approximately 260 co-sponsors which raised the question, can Congressman Whitfield force the bill to a vote without going through the traditional committee structure.

According to the Rule of the U.S. House of Representatives, two options would be a discharge petition or a suspension of the rules.  A discharge petition is a means of bringing a bill out of committee and to the floor for consideration without a report from the committee and usually without cooperation of the leadership by "discharging" the committee from further consideration of a bill or resolution.  The modern discharge petition requires the signature of an absolute majority of House members (218 members). Only twice has it been used successfully on major legislation in recent history.

Discharge petitions are rare. A successful discharge petition embarrasses the leadership; as such, members of the majority party are hesitant to support something that would make the Speaker and their own leaders look bad.  

Suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills in the United States House of Representatives.  A motion to suspend the rules is in order on Mondays and Tuesdays and towards the end of a session of Congress and may only be made by the Speaker of the House or their designee, though it is customary for committee chairs to write the Speaker requesting a suspension.

Most often, bills "on suspension" are non-controversial legislation -- such as naming Post Offices of the United States Postal Service or federal buildings -- and nearly all bills that are considered under suspension rules have bipartisan support.

Given that an alternative piece of legislation will be introduced in the near future with republican support in the states most affected by the Tennessee Walking Horse it is hard to imagine that the PAST Act would be considered “non-controversial” or qualify for a discharge petition.  However the number of co-sponsors of the PAST Act causes concern along with the support the PAST Act has of the Humane Society of the United States.  Proponents of the show horse need to remain vigilant in their opposition to the PAST Act.
 

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