Time is running out for the House to pass legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent in the United States, after the Senate shocked the nation earlier this year and unanimously approved the measure.
The bill, titled sun protection law, patina under the radar for months after the Senate passed it, but it’s back in the spotlight this weekend as Americans prepare to “hunker down” and change their clocks to standard time until March, removing a hour of daylight at winter mornings.
Lawmakers have just 17 legislative days — the period known as the lame session — to pass the bill and send it to President Biden’s desk before the end of the current Congress, and both houses are obligated to reset the clock and reconsider the controversial change.
But the likelihood of lawmakers pushing the bill over the finish line in the home stretch is fading.
“I wouldn’t expect that to happen this time,” Rep. Kewisi Mfume (D-Md.), who is set to become a co-sponsor of the bill, told The Hill. “My common sense tells me that a number of other things are going to happen, depending on which party is dominating the election.”
The Senate sent shockwaves across the country in March when the chamber approved the Sun Protection Act by unanimous consent, a fast-track procedure that allows bills to pass if all members are on board and that no objection is made. Newshowever, reported that some senators were surprised to learn that the measure had gone through the special process.
The legislation, which enjoys bipartisan sponsorship in both houses, would abolish the biannual changing of clocks and make daylight saving time the law of the land year-round.
Under current regulations, the sun should rise in New York City at 7:16 a.m. on December 21, the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. But under the Sunshine Protection Act, New Yorkers would see the sun rise at 8:16 a.m. that day.
The sunset would also be moved back. Empire State residents are expected to see sunset at 4:31 p.m. on December 31. With the Sunshine Protection Act, however, sunset would be pushed back to 5:31 p.m.
Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of abandoning the ritual of changing the clock. A Monmouth University poll conducted in March found that 61% of respondents want the practice to end, while 31% favor maintaining the status quo.
But there are disagreements on the choice of the law of the land: summer time or winter time. This, in part, prevents the House from advancing the Sunshine Protection Act.
“We haven’t yet been able to find consensus in the House on this,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill in a statement.
“There is a wide variety of opinions on whether to maintain the status quo, move to permanent time, and if so, what time it should be. These opinions are broken down not by party, but rather by region. “, he added.
Forty-four percent of respondents to the Monmouth University survey said they would prefer daylight saving time year-round, compared to 13 percent who prefer winter time.
“I have received calls from constituents who prefer permanent standard time because they have safety concerns for children who have to wait too long in the dark during the winter for the school bus, and I I’ve heard from constituents and businesses who prefer permanent daylight saving time because they prefer longer daylight hours,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce which held a DST hearing in February, at The Hill in a statement.
A congressional aide working on the issue told The Hill that there are “so many different interests” in their opinions, which makes it harder to reach a consensus.
The Orthodox Jewish community, for example, “wants to make sure they can do their morning prayers and get to work in a reasonable time”, while some businesses “want to make sure their customers can enjoy the hours from evening to daylight on a patio,” said the aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
“So it’s really all different interests,” the assistant added. “These are ordinary people sharing what their quality of life would be based on the direction this decision takes.”
“The Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over time, continues to review and seek input from Americans and stakeholders on how to make daylight saving time permanent,” said one. spokeswoman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the top Republican on the committee, told The Hill in a statement. “Chief Rodgers hopes the bipartisan work will continue.”
In the past five years, at least 19 states have passed laws or passed resolutions that would make daylight saving time the year-round norm, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These measures, however, cannot be enacted because federal law does not mandate permanent DST.
Hawaii and Arizona only observe standard time.
Last month, the Mexican Senate voted to remove daylight saving time for the majority of the country, removing the practice of changing clocks twice a year. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is expected to sign the measure.
Pallone, however, is reluctant to make the hasty switch, despite his national and international support and the campaigns of the long-standing lobbying effort – which is championed by business groups, including golf organizations. He pointed to the episode from almost 50 years ago when the United States temporarily abolished daylight saving time.
“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,” said the President.
In 1974, former President Nixon signed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent for two years in an effort to combat the gas shortage. The move, however, was so loathed by the public that nine months later former President Ford signed into law a law that restored the twice-a-year tradition.
Nearly half a decade later, with the bill in a chamber, leading lawmakers are arguing for change to be given another chance.
“We need a one-size-fits-all approach, I think, in my opinion, that’s why I support the bill to eliminate it,” Mfume said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, called ending the clock-changing ritual a “matter of common sense.”
“States across the country are passing laws to make DST permanent, but Washington, DC needs to act. I don’t know why the House is refusing to pass this bill – it seems they are rarely in session – but I will continue to push to make it a reality,” he added, digging at the other bedroom.
Congressman Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a co-sponsor of the House bill, said the legislation was “low hanging fruit for both parties.”
“I think it’s a popular bill and I hope that during the lame session [the] The president will present it,” he added.
What would become of the new status quo remains unknown. And the key players are acutely aware that no matter what decision the chamber makes, some people will be in store for a grumpy awakening.
“Half the country is going to be turned upside down no matter what direction we take on this issue,” the aide said. “And so we’re really trying to come to a consensus, but I can tell you those talks are still ongoing as we speak right now.”