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September 15, 2006

The War on Horse Eaters

Welcome to the Sept 5-9, 2006 edition of Last Week in Congress

:Much of Congress’s work last week centered on Defense appropriations for fiscal year 2007. The process is confusing. The House appointed members to the conference committee to work out differences between House and Senate versions of H.R. 5122, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007. As of this writing the bill has a staggering 885 pages. But the Senate then passed H.R. 5631, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2007. The Government Printing Office’s PDF display has this bill at 269 pages, but almost half of it is marked out. I’m as confused as you are. Both bills, however, are in conference. Some way, some how, I suspect Congress will manage to shill out $440 billion or more for Defense by October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Through all the roll call votes, including amendments, resolutions, and procedural votes, I found just one other bill passed. This is the 8-page, $5 million H.R. 503, the Horse Protection Act that prohibits the sale and slaughter of horses for human consumption. With all the problems America faces – many of which the federal government itself caused – the House decided to spend time declaring a War on Horse Eaters. In a few years, we’ll probably have minimum ten-year sentences for “street” horsemeat dealers, and the death penalty for “horse kingpins.”

Horsemeat may sound repulsive to many Americans, but the decision to avoid horsemeat is a preference, not a moral obligation. Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress might have the power to regulate the interstate transport of horses, and even that is probably unnecessary. To prohibit the sale and slaughter of horses for human consumption, however, violates our Ninth Amendment right to choose horsemeat if we prefer it. It also violates the Tenth Amendment, which limits Congress’s powers only to those enumerated in the Constitution. Telling us what we can and can’t eat isn’t one of them.

This Horse law is a perfect illustration of why we need the Read the Bills Act. Congress has a Constitutional responsibility to “provide for the common defense,” but we all know that few if any members will actually read the hundreds of pages of the Defense bills mentioned above. Why? Because they are too busy writing, debating, and voting on unconstitutional bills like the Horse Protection Act.

If members of Congress focused on their necessary duties and Constitutional responsibilities, they would read budget bills thoroughly and spot areas of possible waste, fraud, and abuse. Appropriations bills alone would take up most of their time. And this would give them less time to impose unnecessary, harmful, and unconstitutional laws. The Read the Bills Act would force Congress to do its job rather than waste time and money on the War on Horse Eaters and other nonsense.

To see the specific bills mentioned above, or to see how specific members of Congress voted, click here for the House and here for the Senate. Roll calls are listed in reverse chronological order. To find the number of pages of a bill, we use the GPO PDF Display of the bill’s text.

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