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D.C. Notebook: Lugar's loss could be Orrin Hatch's gain

Published May 13, 2012 12:11 am

Politics • Chaffetz protecting businesses from miniature horses.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If something absolutely horrible happens and the president, vice president and House speaker were unable to perform their duties, it's conceivable that Sen. Orrin Hatch could be the one to lead this nation.

And he owes this potential power to the GOP voters of Indiana who booted Sen. Dick Lugar last week in favor of challenger Richard Mourdock.

Lugar's loss means that, if re-elected, Hatch would be the most senior Republican in the Senate, having first taken the oath of office in 1977. And if his party claims the majority in November, his seniority would gain him the title "president pro tempore."

Caution: There were a lot of "ifs" in the preceding paragraphs. Still, it's interesting to ponder.

The Senate pro tem position is largely ceremonial, with the serious powers held by party leaders, but under the Constitution this person is third in line of succession for the presidency.

The pro tem also gets to make some appointments to boards and rule on points of order in the Senate. And gets a big fat raise.

The pro tem is paid like a party leader, earning $193,400 per year instead of the $174,000 that rank-and-file members receive annually.

My Little Pony • Sometimes congressional debates sound like they're straight out of a satirical Onion story, but the following one is true.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz took to the House floor last week to fight against a new provision by the Justice Department that said businesses must allow service horses in their shops under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"And you did hear right: They're talking about service horses to be in compliance with the ADA regulation," Chaffetz said. "And I dare to stand and say we need to say 'nay' to that type of effort."

The actual Justice Department ruling said that miniature horses — which are preferred by some blind people afraid of dogs, allergic to dogs or looking for a service animal that lives longer — are to be treated the same as service dogs.

That replaces a previous rule, according to Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, that allowed any animal, including monkeys, to be allowed in businesses.

Nonetheless, Chaffetz pushed an amendment that bars the regulation.

"Despite the difficulty — and some would say the impossibility of housebreaking a horse — the Obama Justice Department has ruled that service horses are no different than guide dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"As a result, shops, restaurants, hotels, even airlines can now be sued if they do not accommodate horses in their place of business," the Utah Republican said.

The Guide Horse Foundation says that miniature horses can be well trained and are a nice fit for such uses.

"Horses are natural guide animals and have been guiding humans for centuries," the group's website says. "In nature, horses have been shown to possess a natural guide instinct."

Chaffetz's amendment passed the House anyway.

An honor and a misery • Rep. Rob Bishop honored substitute teachers on the House floor and touted Utah State University research that shows that, on average, about one year of a child's education is taught by subs.

But that doesn't mean Bishop, a former high school educator, wants any part of that job, and he made that clear.

"I taught for 28 years. I have substituted for my colleagues' classes — it is a miserable job," he said. "But these members of the community who fill the void in education are worthy of our recognition."

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.