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Budget deal: Keep incandescent light bulbs on a little longer

Scott Tong Dec 16, 2011
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Jeremy Hobson: The government probably won’t shut down… for now. Today lawmakers are likely to approve a package that emerged late yesterday that’ll keep the governmnet running and put Washington on a path to extend the payroll tax cut.

For more, we’re joined live now from Washington by Marketplace’s Scott Tong. Good morning, Scott.

Scott Tong: Good morning, Jeremy.

Hobson: So what’s in the deal?

Tong: It’s kind of two deals. As far averting the shutdown, the two parties agreed on a $1 trillion spending bill for the next nine months. It keeps Social Security checks going; it keeps the Pentagon going; and it gives tens of billions of dollars for the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

What had held it up is a separate spat over a cut in payroll taxes that all of us employees pay. No, they’re on the verge of a short-term deal on that — to extend the tax cut, to extend unemployment benefits — at least for two months. So it seems the big horse-trading is done, but as always, they tacked on a couple items to make enough people happy.

Hobson: Ah, the old tack-on-some-unrelated stuff into a bill that has to pass to keep the government running trick — so what’s in there, Scott?

Tong: Well, they added to the “Christmas Tree” — as they all it — an item on those light bulb standards you might have heard about. Big ideological fight that the Republicans leaders have won for now. Four years ago, President Bush signed an energy bill requiring light bulbs to be more efficient. It doesn’t ban the old-school incandescents, but companies have to sell better ones, and they’re already on the market. Manufacturers like Philips support all this.

But a lot of politicians on the right argue that this undercuts consumer choice. So today’s bill gives no money to the government to enforce this item. And right now, industry says this is gonna be a mess. The law is still on the books, there’s no funding to implement it, so they have to sort it out.

Hobson: So maybe we keep our incandescents for a little bit longer. Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Washington, thanks.

Tong: All right.

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