WASHINGTON — It may be a slow-burning issue, but light bulbs have been getting conservatives riled up for some time now. The surprise on Thursday was the problem with toilets.
Sen. Rand Paul, in a tussle with an Energy Department official Thursday, complained about what he described as burdensome, "busybody" regulations that were forcing him to buy a bad bowl.
"Frankly, my toilets don't work in my house. And I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house, what I can do. You restrict my choices," Paul said.
The issue on the table was a 2007 law requiring a phase-in of energy-efficient bulbs. Paul and others are trying to repeal portions of the law, arguing that it restricts the American consumer.
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At a Thursday hearing on the issue, Paul — a freshman Republican from Kentucky who shares a libertarian streak with his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas — aimed his complaints at Kathleen Hogan, a deputy assistant at the Energy Department.
He began his remarks by asking Hogan if she was pro-choice. She replied that she was "pro-choice of bulbs."
"The point is that most members of your administration probably would be frank and would be up front to characterize themselves as being pro-choice for abortion," Paul said.
"But you're really anti-choice on every other consumer item that you've listed here."
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was reviewing the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, or Bulb, a bill introduced by Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, in the House.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has her own version — and catchy name — the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.
The measures take aim at a set of efficiency standards for light bulbs, attached to the 2007 energy bill signed by President George W. Bush.
The standard will eventually have the effect of phasing out most traditional incandescent bulbs and replacing them with newer technology.
Critics say the law cost U.S. jobs and limited consumer choice.
"I can't buy the old light bulbs. That restricts my choice on buying," Paul said Thursday.
"My view is what you want is lighting?" Hogan said.
"I can't buy a toilet that works," Paul responded.
"I can help you find a toilet that works," Hogan said.