"In a battle of wits, it is poor sport to fight an unarmed opponent." Humorist Mark Twain said that, although similar sentiments have been attributed to William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, and Walt Kelly’s comic strip creation Pogo. In the same vein, there is little sport in taking potshots at legislators. Everyone does it, though, because legislators are such big targets and are so easy to hit.

Almost no one thinks Congress is doing a good job. A recent Gallup Poll ranked 16 institutions according to the confidence they inspire in the public. The military came out on top, with 76 per cent of the people polled saying they had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in the institution. Congress was at the bottom of the heap, with only 11 per cent of people saying they had real confidence in our elected representatives. This was the lowest confidence level ever for Congress, down from 17 per cent in 2009 and a percentage point below the previous low, reached in 2008. Half of the people polled by Gallup said that they had "very little" or "no" confidence in Congress.

So what have our legislators been up to these days? Not much, apparently, at least in the equine welfare arena.

H.R. 305 (The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009): This legislation would prohibit the interstate transportation of horses in double decker trucks or trailers. Introduced in January 2009, the bill finally was voted out of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on July 29. The bill cannot be considered for a vote in the House of Representatives until Congress goes back to work in September after a summer recess. There is no similar bill pending in the Senate.

H.R. 1018 (The Restore Our American Mustangs Act): This legislation would amend the current Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in ways that might improve the Bureau of Land Management’s management and care of wild horses and burros. This bill passed in the House of Representatives in July 2009, more than a year ago. A few days later the legislation was received by the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where it has languished for more than a year.

S. 1579 (The Restore Our American Mustangs Act): Similar to H.B. 1018, this legislation was introduced by the late Sen. Robert Byrd in August 2009. It also has been in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for almost a year.

H.R. 305 (The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009): Legislation that would restrict the slaughter of horses for human consumption, this bill was introduced in January 2009—18 months ago—but it never has made it out of the Committee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

S. 727 (The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009): Companion legislation to H.R. 305, this bill was relegated to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains after some 16 months.

The welfare of horses and other animals is on the agenda in Washington, but just barely. What action can we expect from our elected representatives on these bills? According to Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, not much. Rep. Whitfield has been praised for his stand on animal welfare by the Humane Society of the United States, where his wife happens to be a Senior Advisor for Presidential Initiatives. He was interviewed by Manual Quinones a few weeks ago for Capitol News Connection.

"There are so many other issues right now," Rep. Whitfield said about the failure of Congress to act on the anti-slaughter legislation. "We’ve got a huge deficit. We’ve got an Afghanistan war that’s not going very well."

This would be all well and good if Congress actually was spending all its collective time on issues like the deficit and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, according to a recent Lexington Herald-Leader article, one of the pressing and contentious issues facing Congress is whether to recognize college or professional athletes who win national titles. A resolution congratulating the University of South Carolina baseball team for winning the 2010 College World Series is bogged down in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the same legislative purgatory shared by S. 727.

All things considered, an 11-per-cent confidence rating for Congress might be too generous.