Senior Senators Are Having Their Say

There is a real   benefit in  being an official “old” person,  aside from the long-awaited  senior citizen discount. Once you've moved by  65  you've   reached a point in your life where you can say what you mean, support the causes that matter to you, and take chances that you might not have taken as a  younger person  still caught up in whatever it was that " making it"  meant to you.

Thus, if   you are officially senior  statesmen,  like Senators Reid, Dole, and Kerrey, you not only  know how Washington, D.C. , works or doesn’t work, you still have connections that may  be of help  in getting the  things done that actually matter.  When you reach the status  of senior  statesman, with the past behind  you and in the record books, the future,  as it benefits the public good,  is very much on your mind.

Today, Senator Harry Reid, who was the Senate majority leader until the last election, and now leads as the minority leader of the Democratic party, agreed to sign on as a co-sponsor of the PAST Act.  Putting his name to the bill as the 42nd  co-sponsor shows that Reid ( D-NV) believes officially that the federal Horse Protection Act needs to be amended. More importantly, his co-sponsorship means that he is willing to put his leadership to work on this issue.

When Harry Reid ,  even from the minority seats, speaks or signs on to a bill,  people in the senate do listen and take note.  May the  senators on both sides of the aisle, those  who have not yet co-sponsored Senate Bill 1121 , the PAST Act, hear him loud and clear and follow his lead on  this important  issue which has not only  bi-partisan support but  young,  original sponsors Republican Ayotte and Democrat Warner at its forefront.

Animal welfare is no longer a fringe issue. Earlier this  month animal welfare issues on the Hill got another boost  when  two well-respected  retired senators, Robert Dole ( R-KS) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE), both of  whom have indicated a willingness to show   their support for the animal welfare position ,  became active volunteer advocates working with the HSUS as Special Advisors.

Dole and Kerrey were reportedly deeply troubled when they each  read an investigative report written by Michael Moss and published in the New York Times this January. The report covered hellish experiments being conducted on farm animals , paid for with taxpayer dollars, at the U.S. Meat Research Center in Nebraska.

For this to happen in Kerrey’s home state appalled him. As for Dole, who championed animal welfare issues in both  his House and Senate career, the revelations in the report were a call to action.

Dole and Kerry are veterans of the military. Both served their country honorably. Both know that you can not lead  from the sidelines; they are no strangers to taking on difficult issues.

 Dole was architect of the 1978 amendments to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, requiring that livestock be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered, and he was  the co-author of the 1985 amendments made to the Animal Welfare Act. He is a long time and consistent objector to the idea currently popular in some factions that farm animals should be excluded from the protections of federal law. 

As a former governor of a farming state and then as a senator, Kerrey, too, is a  believer that animals should not be misused in order to be used.  He has actively supported issues of humane treatment for animals.

Today, opponents of animal welfare legislation like the PAST Act,   purposely label  people who work for achieving something so basic as   humane treatment of animals   as radical animal rights activists. The use of the  words radical and activists play well with the base of their support. These are  the people who,  usually for economic concerns or in  a belief  that the government has over stepped  its bounds in attempting to "interfere" through the   law with their business or hobbies, assert that animals are property and the rights of owners to deal in the manner of their choice  with their own property reigns supreme.

By taking up roles as special advisors,  Dole  and Kerrey, far from being  firebrand liberals or tree hugging cranks,   made a bi-partisan  stand in support of issues relating to  animal welfare.    That  should get attention even in a place as dysfunctional as Washington D.C., has become.

Long-time  lawmakers like Reid, Dole,  and Kerrey know, because they have lived it,   that  pushing for big reforms at the federal level  can be  slow and cumbersome. Progress and progressive are not the favorite words of the moment on the Hill.  What is matter- of- fact , business- as- usual,  for elected officials is  past infuriating  to people who look at the Congress  from the outside and wonder why something so obvious and so well supported as the PAST Act could have been left to die on the procedural  vine of the last Congress.  

Another  former  senator,  Joseph Tydings, had to  remind disappointed PAST Act supporters last year  that it took him more than one try to get the original Horse Protection Act passed and that was at a time when performance  horse    opposition was much less intense than it is now and the Congress was  more collegial and less polarized. Very little that is worthwhile comes easily out of D.C..

By signaling their willingness to work on issues surrounding animal welfare,  a triumvirate of senior senator citizens are  demonstrating to the rest of us    that leadership requires sticking to it, working  across party lines for a public good,  and a commitment to principle.

These  three could be enjoying quiet time as retirees; instead,  two of them  have returned to the fray as volunteers, while  Reid continues to fight on for the things he believes in Congress, even after announcing that he will not run again for Senate when his current term expires.  That show  of senior charged  energy  should be motivational  to those  of us who grow weary  when  change seems to  take so long.

Senators Dole and Kerrey will be reaching out  and working the halls  in the months ahead,  asking that the following reforms,  which all enjoy bipartisan support,  be enacted:

·      The  Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture ( PACT) Act, H.R. 2293 that  complements the federal laws on animal fighting and crush videos by prohibiting extreme animal abuse involving interstate commerce or on federal property

·      The Prevent All Soring Tactics ( PAST) Act, S.1121, which will end the cruel practice of soring to force walking, racking and spotted saddle horses into performing an unnatural gait

·      The Pet and Woman Safety (PAWS) Act H.R. 1258 an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act that includes protection for pets and provides grants to domestic violence shelters to accommodate pets

·      The Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors ( AWARE) Act, H.R. 746/S.388, closing the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that exempts animals used in agricultural experiment at federally run facilities from the Act’s basic protections

·      The Humane Cosmetics Act that will phase out the use of live animals in cosmetic testing and the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals, as is the case in more than 30 other countries. 

As for Nevada's senior senator,  Senator Reid,    follow him on C-SPAN where he is very much in the forefront of the Senate's business.

Consider  giving his office  a call and thanking him for putting his feelings about the PAST Act on the record. He may not be the senator from your state, but today he joined 41 of his colleagues in standing up for the horses that can not advocate for themselves.

A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
— Mark Twain