A not-so-bright approach to policy

A not-so-bright approach to policy
A not-so-bright approach to policy
Associated Press

If there are any lingering doubts about whether congressional Republicans have given up the pretense of caring about public policy, consider their mind-numbing approach to light bulbs.

The House on Wednesday voted to block the enforcement of light bulb standards that many say would effectively force people to buy more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs.

Just like last year, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) proposed the language as an addition to the energy and water spending bill. His language prohibits the use of any funds at the Department of Energy to implement the standards.

Burgess said the federal government should not use regulations to impose standards that force consumers to buy the pricier bulbs, and said the market should be allowed to sort it out.


We’ve set the record straight on this before, but it appears Burgess and his colleagues may benefit from a refresher, so let’s recap.

In 2007, Congress tackled a pretty important energy bill, which included light-bulb provisions that weren’t considered controversial in the slightest. At the time, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and congressional Democrats worked together on the larger legislative package, which included advanced light-bulb standards intended to spur innovation, lower costs, and improve energy efficiency.

The provision was approved with bipartisan support – the radicalization of the Republican Party has intensified quickly in recent years – and the larger bill was easily passed and signed by President George W. Bush.

The policy was quite successful, working exactly intended, and producing the kind of energy innovation proponents hoped to see. It was, by any fair measure, a bipartisan success story.

But as the strain of madness dominating Republican politics grew deeper, the far-right cries to undo the bipartisan success story grew louder.

Not long after President Obama took office – it’s interesting how the radicalization of the GOP just happened to coincide with the Democrat’s inauguration – Republican policymakers began looking at the Bush/Cheney-backed energy bill as an authoritarian scourge that sought to take away Americans’ light bulbs.

By 2012, Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney, and others insisted that the 2007 law “bans” traditional incandescent bulbs, which in turn takes away consumers’ choices.

In case reality makes any difference at all, there is no “ban” on the old bulbs, only a policy that makes bulbs more energy efficient – a policy that’s working.

But Republicans don’t care if it’s working; they care if it meets an ideological test that makes sense only to them. It’s why they voted for a measure – which can’t pass the Senate – intended to undo the effective reforms, which in turn would waste more energy, cost consumers more money, and even undermine the marketplace.

It is a post-policy party, plain and simple.

Update: My colleague Tricia McKinney suggested a welcome addition to this post:

Lightbulbs, Energy, Energy Policy, House Republicans and Light Bulbs

A not-so-bright approach to policy