The Great Light Bulb Debate of 2011 isn’t over yet.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) on Wednesday filed an amendment to the Energy and Water spending bill that would prohibit the Energy Department from requiring traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient.
The amendment does not include language prohibiting states from adopting their own standards. That language was included in a bill doing away with the light bulb standards from fellow Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton that failed on the House floor Tuesday.
“A limitation amendment also really shouldn’t upset the Republican Study Committee like the 10th Amendment issues that were on the bill on the floor yesterday,” Burgess told POLITICO. One Republican — Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) — voted “present” on the Barton bill largely over the 10th Amendment issue.
Barton’s bill got 233 votes Tuesday, but fell well short of the two-thirds needed to pass under expedited floor rules. Burgess would only need majority support for his amendment.
Only five Democrats voted for Barton’s bill after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi whipped Democrats against the bill. Ten Republicans opposed the measure on the floor.
Burgess has not been promised a vote on his amendment yet, though Barton and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton are fine with it, and most spending bill amendments have been allowed under an open rule. In fact, Burgess said Republican staff on the energy panel approached him about possibly offering a spending bill amendment.
Energy and Water Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) on Wednesday evening said he was not aware of any light bulb amendments, while perhaps only half-joking, "We don't need any more amendments."
Burgess said he has fought the efficiency standards from the beginning.
“I was the guy in 2007 who fought this on the subcommittee,” he said of language included in a broader energy bill that was signed into law that year. “I didn’t get a lot of help. There was no one really willing to fight this fight.”
Times certainly have changed.
Upton (R-Mich.) co-authored the efficiency standards with then-Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) before he changed his stance while selling his conservative credentials when he sought the chairmanship of the energy panel last fall.
Even if the House were to pass the Burgess amendment — or any future attempt at dismantling the efficiency standards — opposition from the White House and most Democrats may make it little more than a symbolic stance in the fight against federal intervention on consumer choice.
Policy riders in spending bills though may have a better shot at least than stand-alone bills.
“That’s where a limitation amendment comes in handy,” Burgess said. “If the amendment was passed on the floor with 233 votes, could it possibly stay in an omnibus? And the answer is, yeah, it possibly could.”
The Energy Department has fought against repealing the standards, arguing that they could save consumers $6 billion a year.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 8:49 p.m. on July 13, 2011.
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