The clock is running out on efforts to make daylight saving time permanent


Early this Sunday morning, Americans will engage in the annual fall ritual of “falling back” – setting their clocks back one hour to conform to standard time.

If some lawmakers were successful, it would mark the end of a tradition that has lasted more than a century. But a familiar story without a tale of deadlock in Congress and a relentless lobbying campaign, this one by advocates some jokingly call “Big Sleep.”

A bill to permanently “jump forward” was to the point of death in Congress for more than seven months as lawmakers debate whether the Senate should have passed the legislation. House officials say they’ve been inundated with divided voters and warnings from sleep experts who insist that adopt permanent standard time it would be healthier instead, and congressional leaders admit they just don’t know what to do.

“We have not yet been able to find consensus in the House on this,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “There are a wide variety of opinions on whether to maintain the status quo, move to permanent time, and if so, what time it should be.”

Pallone, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce committee that oversees daylight saving time policies, also said he was hesitant to repeat Congress’ previous attempt to implement DST year-round nearly 50 years ago, which was quickly repealed amid widespread reports that darker winter mornings were leading to more car crashes and dreary moods.

“We don’t want to make a hasty change and then reverse it many years later after public opinion turned against it – which is exactly what happened in the early 1970s,” Pallone said. .

With lawmakers having pressed the snooze button, legislation is unlikely to move forward in the limping period following next week’s election, congressional aides said.

The silent collapse of the bill ends an unusual episode that briefly fascinated Congress, has become fodder for late night comics and water cooler fueled debate. That of the Senate unanimous vote in March to allow states to permanently shift their clocks surprised some of the members of the chamber – and in contrast to traditional Washington dynamics, it was the Chamber slow senate legislation.

Leading senators who backed permanent DST say they’re mystified that their effort seems doomed, and frustrated that they’ll likely have to start over in the next Congress. At least 19 states in recent years have enacted laws or passed resolutions that would allow them to enforce DST year-round — but only if Congress approves legislation to stop daylight saving time two times a year of the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“It’s not a partisan or regional issue, it’s a matter of common sense,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-author of the Sunshine Protection Act, which was passed by the Senate in March, in a press release. Senate staff noted that a bipartisan accompanying bill in the House, backed by 48 Republicans and Democrats, has stalled for nearly two years in an energy and commerce subcommittee chaired by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

“I don’t know why the House is refusing to pass this bill – it seems like they are rarely in session – but I will continue to push to make it a reality,” Rubio said, taking a swipe at his counterparts. of Congress.

The gloomy mood of Rubio and his colleagues this fall stands in stark contrast to their sunny celebrations when the Senate abruptly passed their bill. two days after the “spring ahead” clock changewith lawmakers still groggy campaigning on it as common sense reform.

“My phone has been ringing non-stop in support of this bill – from mums and dads who want more daylight before bedtime to seniors who want more sun in the evening to enjoy the outdoors to farmers who could use the extra daylight to work in the fields,” said a March fundraising email from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).

But behind the scenes, the bill’s predictions were almost immediately cloudy.

Some senators told reporters they were surprised that the bill passed through a parliamentary procedure known as unanimous consent, which eliminates the need for debate or an actual vote count if no senator opposes a measure , and wished there had been a more traditional series of hearings and legislative margins. Sleep experts and neurologists warned urgently that moving away from early morning sunlight would harm circadian rhythms, sleep-wake cycles, and overall health. Groups such as religious Jews complained that moving the clocks later in the winter would prevent them from having morning prayers after sunrise and still getting to work and school on time.

There is also regional differences in who would benefit the most from permanent daylight saving time. Lawmakers in southern states such as Florida say it would maximize sunlight for their residents during the winter months – but some people who live in the northern US or west of time zones, such as Indianapolis , would not see sunrise on some winter days until 9am

And in the House, lawmakers and staff working on the issue have pointed to polls that show deep divisions in public opinion over how to proceed. While 64% of respondents to a March 2022 survey YouGov poll said they wanted to stop changing the clock twice a year, only about half of those who favored a change wanted permanent daylight saving time, while about a third supported permanent standard time and others weren’t sure.

“We know the majority of Americans don’t want to keep changing clocks,” Schakowsky said in a statement to the Post, adding that she’s received calls arguing on behalf of both sides. Standard time advocates don’t want kids waiting for a school bus on dark winter mornings; Proponents of permanent daylight saving time want to help businesses enjoy more sunshine during business hours, she said.

A congressional aide who has worked on the issue put it more bluntly: “We’d piss off half the country no matter what,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he doesn’t was not allowed to publicly discuss internal matters. deliberations.

The White House has avoided taking a position on the legislation, and in interviews administration officials have said the issue is complicated and involves trade and health issues.

Pallone and other lawmakers said they are waiting for the Department of Transportation, which helps govern time zone enforcement, to consider the effects of permanently changing clocks. While the transport agency in September agreed to conduct a study, the due date for this analysis—December 31, 2023—suggests the issue may not be seriously considered again in Congress until 2024 at the earliest.

And while round-the-clock lobbying efforts pale in comparison to the tens of millions of dollars spent by so-called Big Pharma or Big Tech advocates, some congressional aides joke that the debate has woken up “ Big Sleep”: concerted resistance from sleep doctors and researchers who published advocacy letters who warned against permanent DST, traveled to Capitol Hill to introduce lawmakers to permanent DST instead and dramatically increased his lobbying spending, according to a review of federal disclosures.

For example, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, or AASM – which in recent years had focused its advocacy on issues such as improving sleep apnea care – this year included new priorities in its federal documents: lobbying lawmakers Sun Protection Law and “problems related to seasonal time changes.”

The AASM also nearly doubled its lobbying spending, from $70,000 in Q3 2021 to $130,000 in Q3 2022, and added a health lobbyist who worked for Schakowsky.

The daylight saving time debate has caught the attention of the academy of sleep medicine, an official confirmed.

“When the Sunshine Protection Act was passed by the Senate last spring, we determined that advocating for the establishment of a permanent standard time should be an immediate priority,” wrote Melissa Clark, Director of Advocacy and public awareness of AASM, in an email.

Clark added that the AASM has met with the offices of dozens of lawmakers to advocate for a permanent standard time. “This is a question that concerns everyone,” she wrote.

This is also a question that resonates abroad. Mexican legislators passed a law last month to end daylight saving time in most of their country, a measure that the country’s president quickly signed into law.

But not everyone agrees that change – any change – is needed.

Josh Barro, a political commentator who has Many times argued to preserve the current system, said that neither permanent summer time nor permanent winter time made sense.

“I think we have the system we have for a reason…we have a number of daylight hours in the day and it’s going to vary depending on the axial tilt of the earth. And we need a way to manage it so that we wake up shortly after sunrise most days,” Barro said. “It’s really the government solving a coordination problem.”

Beth Ann Malow, a neurologist and sleep medicine researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, noted that she continues to prefer permanent standard time, a position she testified to during a congressional hearing earlier this year. But even Malow says the United States may end up needing a compromise – move the clock back 30 minutes and then stay that way permanently.

“I know people on permanent standard time and permanent daylight saving time will be disappointed because they didn’t get what they wanted, and we won’t be in sync with other countries,” Mallow said. “But it’s a way to stop the back and forth.”

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