A standalone effort to reverse federal standards that had the effect of banning cheap incandescent bulbs failed earlier this week, angering conservatives who saw the issue as symbolic of the nanny-state regulatory approach in Congress. However, a similar measure added as an amendment to another bill passed by voice vote earlier today:
The House on Friday morning moved to block federal light bulb efficiency standards without even a roll call vote.
An amendment from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) defunding the Energy Department’s standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient starting next year was approved rather anticlimactically by voice vote. …
Democrats and the White House have opposed the move to block the standards, which were included in a 2007 energy bill signed by President George W. Bush. DOE has said the standards could save consumers $6 billion a year.
The first bill failed because Rep. Fred Upton brought it to the floor under a suspension of the rules, which meant that it had to clear a 2/3rds supermajority to pass. Some Republicans, such as Joe Barton, rejected the bill because it also barred states from creating their own standards; Barton objected to it as an affront to the 10th Amendment. It had almost no chance of passing regardless, as Nancy Pelosi actively whipped her caucus to oppose it.
The new amendment does not actually repeal the federal regulation. It only forbids the Department of Energy from enforcing the standards in the next budget year. Even if this passes the Senate and gets Obama’s signature — probably likely, since it’s now attached to the funding for all energy and water-development agencies — it only fixes the problem through September 2012. The amendment would have to be attached every year unless Congress removes the regulatory language, an effort that will have no chance of passage at all while Obama is President.
For the moment, though, it appears that Americans can choose for themselves what kind of lightbulbs they prefer, and whether they want to save money on energy or at the point of sale. Since Washington is the last entity that can claim standing on cost savings, this seems like a much better idea.