WASHINGTON—Cutting short its Columbus Day recess, Congress held a special emergency session this weekend to push through comprehensive legislation requiring every dog in the United States to wear a neckerchief, with both parties hailing the outcome as a "major step forward for the nation" and "downright adorable."
Spurred by recent statistics indicating only one in five American dogs currently wears a bandanna around its neck, Democrats and Republicans reportedly reached across the aisle in a rare display of bipartisanship, working through long-held differences on acceptable colors, designs, and knotting styles to pass the landmark bill.
"I'm proud we have put politics aside and taken this decisive step toward putting our dogs in neckerchiefs and keeping them in neckerchiefs for generations to come," said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), a co-sponsor of the bill and owner of two schnauzers who has long pushed for congressional action to ensure all canines can be "absolutely precious." "While it's unfortunate our country had to wait so many years for this legislation, it does not diminish the joy we all feel today knowing that American dogs will now be more lovable than at any other point in our nation's history."
"Every single citizen—dog owners and non-dog-owners alike—will reap the benefits of this law," Whitfield continued. "It's so cute, you don't even know."
Officially known as the American Canine Collar Enhancement Act of 2011, the 214-page bill was held up in committee for days as members hammered out its finer points. Congressional staffers confirmed the bill was nearly derailed Saturday following an argument between Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) over the permissibility of tropical-patterned neckerchiefs, a contentious exchange that led to Boehner defiantly walking out of negotiations.
Republican leaders were brought back to the bargaining table hours later, sources said, when Democrats agreed to an amendment mandating that all dogs be required to wear an American flag bandanna on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
"I was initially hesitant to support legislation this extensive," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. "But when [Sen. Bob] Corker [R-TN] brought that golden retriever onto the floor with the red paisley scarf tied around its neck, I knew we needed to move swiftly and decisively."
"Aw, just look at the guy," added Schumer, holding up a photograph.
Under the language of the bill, acceptable dog-bandanna combinations would include a beagle with a plaid bandanna, a Boston terrier with a hot pink bandanna, a pug wearing a yellow bandanna fastened by a decorative pin, a dachshund with a bandanna tied around its neck like a cape, an Old English sheepdog wearing a bandanna embroidered with its name, and a pair of bulldogs sporting matching Detroit Red Wings bandannas.
According to the Congressional Record, a competing bill put forth by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) calling for all dogs to be dressed in little doggy sweaters was immediately rejected by a unanimous chorus of nays.
Despite passing both houses with comfortable margins, the neckerchief law has been strongly condemned by its detractors, among them a coalition of novelty dog collar manufacturers that opposes any version of the legislation that does not provide tax incentives to the industry, and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), a noted cat lover.
"It's completely ludicrous," Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), who voted against the bill, said on Meet The Press Sunday. "This law, if you can believe it, specifically mandates that the point of all triangularly folded neckerchiefs face directly downward along a dog's chest at all times. What is Washington thinking? Where I'm from, we know that a bandanna that's askew to one side is the most darling look of all."
While opponents have vowed to seek the legislation's repeal in court, a Zogby poll conducted Sunday found that 83 percent of Americans supported the law and that the congressional approval rating had received a notable bump from its passage.
"It's gratifying to know we have done right by our constituents," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said. "We all may look back on this one day as the moment when we really started to turn things around in this country."
As of press time, an estimated 800,000 dogs had been euthanized for failing to comply with the new law.