What’s “that sad little scrap of paper?” John Sheldon asks in the 1976 Schoolhouse Rock! segment, “I’m Just a Bill.”

“I’m just a bill; yes, I’m only a bill; and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill.”

Those of a certain age sang those words in their heads. There’s a good chance that they will run on a loop in your mind for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

The animated cartoon depicts “Bill” as a dejected piece of legislation as it languishes in Congress awaiting its opportunity to become law.

“How I hope and pray that I will, but today I am still just a bill.”


The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act is beginning to resemble “that sad little scrap of paper.” The legislation was first introduced on April 12, 2013, in the 113th Congress with the intention of stamping out the application of substances or devices to horses’ limbs to inflict pain to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping gait, known as The Big Lick, in Tennessee Walking Horse show rings. The companion bills in both houses of Congress never made it out of committee.

It’s evolving into something of a tradition. Sens. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, and Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, reintroduced the bill for the sixth time in 11 years. Is there reason to believe that the PAST Act emerges from the halls of the 118th Congress and finds itself in the Oval Office?

The Democrat-controlled House changed a key rule in 2019 that allows a path to a vote for any bill that maintains 290 cosponsors for a cumulative period of 25 legislative days. That represents a supermajority of two-thirds of all House members. The change propelled the PAST Act to approval in the House by votes of 333-96 in 2019 and 304-111 in 2022. It died in committee in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans.

Cloudy Forecast

Control in both houses swapped in 2021. Will that shift the balance in favor of the PAST Act finally making its way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? The forecast remains cloudy.

The Democrats are the majority party in the Senate with 48 seats, while Republicans hold 49 seats. The math doesn’t add up in the 100-seat chamber because the three independents caucus with the Democrats, handing them the majority. The legislation has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is chaired by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. It has a 37% chance of making it out of committee, according to GovTrack.

In the Republican-controlled House, the legislation first was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. However, just a week later, it was sent to the Subcommittee on Innovation, Data and Commerce. Although they aren’t always death knells, it’s notoriously difficult for bills to survive subcommittee assignments.

Don’t forget that 2019 House rule, though. Legislation that has 290 cosponsors for a cumulative 25 legislative days are assigned to its Consensus Calendar. The PAST Act has 241 cosponsors as of mid-April. While there’s still time to recruit 49 cosponsors, GovTrack is pessimistic of the bill’s prospects. It estimates that there’s a 29% chance that it emerges from the House committee. Moreover, there’s only an 11% chance of it becoming law.

If that holds up, the sad little scrap of paper is still “just a bill.”