Representatives Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Marsha Blackburn have just introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act (or BULB). The legislation would repeal the de facto ban on the incandescent light bulb contained in Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
Rep. Burgess, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Investigations Committee, explained:
Thousands of American jobs have been shipped overseas as a direct consequence of this light bulb provision in the Democrats’ 2007 energy bill. Further, I have stated all along that exposing our citizens to the harmful effects of the mercury contained in CFL light bulbs, which are being manufactured in China, is likely to pose a hazard for years to come.
Rep. Barton, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee put the issue in its broader context:
The unanticipated consequence of the ’07 act – Washington-mandated layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession – is one of many examples of what happens when politicians and activists think they know better than consumers and workers, From the health insurance you’re allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.
Barton had more to say about the issue at Red State.
The battle to repeal the light bulb ban relates to another potential battle — the one for leadership of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, should the Republicans win control of the House. Ranking member Barton faces a tenure limitation problem; the service limit Republicans impose on a member’s eligibility to be the ranking member or chairman of a committee expires this year, though Barton could seek a waiver. Thus, Rep. Fred Upton, currently the ranking member of the Energy and Environment subcommittee, is making a move, and is probably the front-runner, for the Committee Chairmanship.
Unfortunately, Upton is not much of a conservative. In fact, I understand that he was a cosponsor of the original lightbulb ban. And, despite the harm done by that ban, when asked to co-sponsor the repeal measure, Upton refused.
The BULB Act thus highlights the need for a conservative Chairman on this committee, which controls not only energy policy, but health care policy as well. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that the House GOP leadership is leaning in favor of Upton. Grass-roots conservatives, the ones who, if things go according to plan, will elevate the GOP leadership into the House leadership, will not amused if that leadership tilts towards moderates when it comes time to select the leadership of committees like Energy and Commerce.
The left understands the stakes (see, for example, this piece in Mother Jones, which notes that Democratic congressional staffers regard Upton as “someone they can work with on energy and climate issues” even though he didn’t support cap and trade last year). It’s not too soon for conservatives to start focusing on the issue of who will lead the Energy and Commerce if Republicans take the House.