As the nation prepares to “fall back” on Sunday morning, the House has yet to take up the Sunshine Protection Act, which would eliminate the twice-a-year time change; a number of members of Congress have called for action.
In March, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act, a step toward making daylight saving time permanent.
“The outdated ritual of ‘falling back’ disrupts our daily routine and darkens our lives – in a very literal sense,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Wednesday.
Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) tweeted on Saturday: “As we prepare to turn our clocks back for daylight saving, I am renewing my commitment to end this unnecessary practice and make daylight saving time permanent through continued support for the Sunshine Protection Act.”
According to a YouGov poll taken in March, 64% of Americans want to stop changing the clocks twice a year. But Congress is more divided, as regional differences complicate the effects; while Southern states would see more daylight with permanent daylight saving time, Northern states might not see the sun until after 9 a.m. in the winter.
As Congress loses sleep over what to do next, most sleep experts agree that a standard time—not jumping back and forth—is best for our health. Furthermore, a 2020 study showed a spike in fatal traffic accidents in the week after we changed the clocks.
But for some members of Congress, what’s past is prologue. “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,” Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) told the Washington Post.
Under Richard Nixon’s presidency in 1973, Congress made daylight saving time permanent for two years in an effort to reduce energy consumption, but the result was not so sunny: going to school and work in the dark hours of the morning became more dangerous. The practice also did not reduce consumption as intended; the experiment ended before the two-year trial period was up.
Congress has been wrestling with what to do about standardized time since Congress implemented daylight saving time as a wartime measure in 1942. Although standard time lasts just over four months of the year for most of the country, some states and U.S. territories—Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands—already practice permanent standard time.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said her constituents have made arguments for both cases: “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 winter for the school bus, and I have heard from constituents and businesses who prefer permanent daylight saving time because they prefer longer daylight hours.”
Nineteen states have passed measures to make daylight saving time permanent, but these measures won’t go into effect until Congress passes federal legislation and President Joe Biden signs it into law. Earlier this year, the White House declined to take a position on whether to maintain daylight saving time.