Sunday, December 18, 2011
Congress overturns incandescent light bulb ban
That agreement is tucked inside the massive 1,200-page spending bill that funds the government through the rest of this fiscal year, and which both houses of Congress will vote on Friday. Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, which heads off a looming government shutdown.
Congressional Republicans dropped almost all of the policy restrictions they tried to attach to the bill, but won inclusion of the light bulb provision, which prevents the Obama administration from carrying through a 2007 law that would have set energy efficiency standards that effectively made the traditional light bulb obsolete.
Stopping the bulb ban was a chief GOP priority coming into this year, with all of the candidates seeking to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee saying they would push through a repeal. That bill cleared the House but Democrats blocked its consideration in the Senate.
House Republicans then insisted on adding a provision into the year-end spending bill, and it was one of the last major sticking-points in the negotiations.
“When the American people gave Republicans control of the House in January, one of the major issues involved was the Democratic ban on the 100 watt bulb,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, who fought to preserve the incandescent bulb. “Republicans have fulfilled our promise to the American people by allowing them to continue to be able to choose what type of bulb they use at home. Consumers should drive the marketplace, not the government.”
The spending bill doesn’t actually amend the 2007 law, but does prohibit the administration from spending any money to carry out the light bulb standards — which amounts to at least a temporary reprieve.
The spending bill is full of similar provisions that are included year after year to restrict what administrations can do.
At $915 billion in discretionary spending, the bill amounts to $750.6 million per page, and funds the vast majority of government operations, from defense to homeland security to federal parks. Since it is a must-pass bill, it also becomes a major battleground for policy fights such as the light bulbs.
Among the other policy riders attached to the bill is a requirement that all new federal employees be run through E-Verify, the voluntary government system for checking to see if employees are authorized to work in the U.S.; restrictions on the administration transferring suspected terrorist detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.; and a ban on the District of Columbia using government money to pay for abortions.
The GOP tried but failed to attach restrictions on the Obama administration’s nuclear waste policy, its international family planning policy and major restrictions on the president’s environmental agenda. Mr. Obama and Democrats also forced Republicans to remove provisions that would have prevented him from requiring government contractors to disclose their political contributions — though they cannot be required to disclose them as part of an application for a loan or grant.
“These contentious policy riders had no place in our annual appropriations bills, and it was encouraging that we were able to remove nearly all of them from the final version of this bill,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee