(The Hill) — Legislation to make daylight saving time permanent passed the Senate last week, but the House is not ready to be a rubber stamp, spelling potential trouble ahead for its passage in the lower chamber.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle have made clear they are not in a rush to act on the legislation, with some citing the focus on the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, as well as the need for further review from members before taking up the proposal.
And though the idea has enjoyed bipartisan support across Congress, its path in the lower chamber is uncertain, as a few members have begun to call for more research into the proposed measure before signing on to the push.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told The Hill on Friday that, while she has supported doing away with the semiannual time change in the past, she’s gotten mixed reactions from her constituents over the idea.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about this from my constituents recently because we’re in Seattle and it is so dark,” she said, “and so if we make daylight saving permanent, it’s gonna be dark until like nine o’clock in the morning.”
Though Jayapal said she thinks “having one time zone is just easier,” she added that she wants “to pay attention to what people are saying,” while also noting concerns that some have shared about the potential impact the proposed change could have on learning.
Pressed about his stance on the proposal, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) stressed the need for additional evidence before taking a position.
“I’m going to ask my staff for some empirical studies about this,” he said.
In remarks to The Hill on Friday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, said he assumes the legislation will “be more broadly discussed both by the relevant committees and within the caucus sooner rather than later.”
“Different members have articulated a different perspective. We’ll have to come to some consensus. We were unexpectedly sent this bill by the Senate. Now, we’re trying to absorb it,” Jeffries said.
The legislation passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on Tuesday. Any senator can use the procedure to fast-track passage of a bill without a vote, but it only takes one senator to object and block it.
A staffer for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), lead sponsor of the measure, said his office ran what’s known around Capitol Hill as a “hotline” on the legislation last week, informing all senators’ offices that the Florida Republican was seeking to ask for unanimous consent for the bill to pass.
The staffer said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) had an objection to the measure, and they expected him to object to its passage. Rubio delayed trying to pass the bill until Tuesday, the staffer noted, to give Wicker, who had a flight delay, time to get back to Washington.
“But by Tuesday afternoon, when we had gotten everything scheduled, [Wicker] had sort of said he was not going through, so by the time that Sen. Rubio went down to the floor Tuesday afternoon, he felt pretty confident that it was going to pass,” the staffer said.
The Hill has reached out to Wicker’s office for comment.
Under the newly passed proposal, daylight saving time would be made permanent, starting November 2023, meaning most who changed their clocks at that time of year would no longer have to.
Rubio has pressed for the House to take swift action on the legislation — a call has also been echoed by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who says he’s pushing for a companion bill in the House to pass soon.
Buchanan told The Hill on Friday that he’s confident the legislation could see passage this year, while also acknowledging recent comments from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressing openness to the idea as a good sign.
“I’ve heard the Speaker. A lot of people are open-minded to it,” Buchanan said, before adding he thinks it’s likely the lower chamber would see “a strong vote” in favor of the measure if it’s brought to the floor.
But Rep. John Yarmouth (D-Ky.) on Friday afternoon cast doubt on any chance the House would immediately pass the measure, telling The Hill he “can’t imagine” the bill being fast-tracked the same way in the lower chamber that it recently had in the Senate.
“I don’t know that many members have really thought through it,” Yarmouth said, adding most members were kind of “blindsided” by how quickly the Senate approved the proposal. But he anticipates much more opinion on the matter in the near future as public interest around the push has grown.
“Now what will happen is you’ll get all of this outpouring of studies and people say, ‘Yeah, we agree you shouldn’t change twice a year, but what is it, standard time or daylight time?’ And then you get the farm bureaus and the parents associations,” he said, while predicting the “longer it goes, the chances of passage decline.”
“It’ll get more controversial the longer it goes,” Yarmouth said. He also recalled his past experience as a congressional staffer in the early 1970s, when he said the time change emerged as an “emotional issue.”
In 1973, President Nixon signed legislation to put the nation on daylight saving time for about two years, an effort he said was intended to help meet the needs of an energy crisis at the time. But the measure was met with immediate pushback not long after its enactment, prompting the nation to go back to the semiannual time change before the two years were up.
David Prerau, the author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time,” told The Hill that while the idea had been popular when it was proposed, much of the public grew to dislike it during winter.
“All of a sudden, everybody realized that they didn’t like it at all. It made the mornings very, very dark. All of the sunrises were an hour later than it would have been,” Prerau said. “Many, many people were getting up into pitch dark, going to work in the pitch dark, which they disliked. And they also disliked sending their kids to school in the dark, having to walk on dark country roads … so it became very unpopular very quickly.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, over a dozen states have passed or enacted legislation seeking to make daylight saving time permanent in recent years, including Idaho, Louisiana, South Carolina and Utah.
Buchanan, who has been pushing for the change for years, said a driving force behind his campaign was the Florida Legislature’s passage of the legislation seeking the same move. But in order for that legislation to take effect, Rubio’s office has said “a change in the federal statute is required.”
“I’m in the Sunshine State. We want more sunshine. … So we’re going to continue to work on it, and maybe get it out of here, the sooner the better. But we’re building the momentum for it right now,” he said.
Mike Lillis, Tobias Burns and Jordain Carney contributed to this report, which was updated at 8:31 a.m.