The House Rules Committee late last night rejected a bipartisan amendment to the massive spending package that would have protected healthy wild horses and burros from slaughter.
The measure would have limited funds in the legislation from being used to euthanize the animals, which the Bureau of Land Management has the authority to do.
There are more than 70,000 wild horses and burros on federal lands, nearly three times the number BLM says it can properly manage.
Democratic Reps. Dina Titus of Nevada, Jared Polis of Colorado and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Republican Reps. Peter King of New York and Carlos Curbelo of Florida sponsored the unsuccessful amendment.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said the federal government is spending “millions and millions” on an unsustainable policy that has made matters worse.
Proponents of transferring animals, or euthanizing those that cannot be adopted and are sick or old, say that the tens of thousands of wild horses and burros have exhausted resources, and that some of the animals simply starve to death.
Opponents of euthanizing the animals have argued for greater use of contraception to cull the population. Some worry that killing them will lead to bad actors selling horse meat for consumption.
Congress for years has attached riders in spending bills prohibiting BLM from using federal money to sell or destroy wild horses and burros. But that is poised to change in the fiscal 2018 omnibus legislation the House is expected to pass soon.
Polis yesterday agreed that BLM’s management of the herds needed to improve but said other methods of population control would be more cost-effective and humane.
“It’s a very appropriate discussion, but to put an amendment into an appropriations bill buried under thousands of pages that allows for the slaughter of horses and burros is not the way that Congress should go about it,” he said. “We need to have a deliberate and thoughtful process as stewards of taxpayer money about the most cost-effective way to manage our wild horse population.”
Sessions pointed out that measures to secure herds have long been part of spending bills.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said the committee should make the amendment in order for floor consideration, especially considering its bipartisan nature.
“I’ll tell you what, my hope would be that all of you all that would vote that we have horse slaughter — that’s basically what you are voting for — I hope y’all wind up having to eat horse,” Hastings said.