Fall Back: Another Year, Another Time Change, Another Time When Nothing Changes

From the Washington Post, Friday, November 4, 2022 by Dan Diamond:

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

If some lawmakers had their way, it would mark the end of a tradition that has stretched for more than a century. But a familiar story unspooled of congressional gridlock and a relentless lobbying campaign, this one from advocates that some jokingly call “Big Sleep.”

A bill to permanently “spring forward” has been stalled in Congress for more than seven months, as lawmakers trade jabs over whether the Senate should have passed the legislation at all. House officials say they’ve been deluged by voters with split opinions and warnings from sleep specialists who insist that adopting permanent standard time instead would be healthier, and congressional leaders admit they just don’t know what to do.

“We haven’t been able to find consensus in the House on this yet,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J., Highland Park’s representative in Congress) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “There are a broad variety of opinions about whether to keep the status quo, to move to a permanent time, and if so, what time that should be.”

Pallone, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce committee that oversees time-change policies, also said he’s wary of repeating Congress’ previous attempt to institute year-round daylight saving time nearly 50 years ago, which was quickly repealed amid widespread reports that darker winter mornings led to more car accidents and drearier moods.

“We don’t want to make a hasty change and then have it reversed several years later after public opinion turns against it — which is exactly what happened in the early 1970s,” Pallone said.

With lawmakers having hit the snooze button, there is little chance of the legislation being advanced during the lame-duck period that follows next week’s election, congressional aides said.

The bill’s quiet collapse puts an end to an unusual episode that briefly riveted Congress, became fodder for late-night comics and fueled water-cooler debate. The Senate’s unanimous vote in March to allow states to permanently shift their clocks caught some of the chamber’s own members by surprise — and in a reverse of traditional Washington dynamics, it was the House slowing down the Senate’s legislation.

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