WASHINGTON – Conservative Republicans, including two from Arizona, took what was expected to be a routine party-line vote Tuesday on bills reining in federal bureaucrats and turned it into a referendum on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The procedural vote blocked action on bills that supporters said would protect Americans’ right to cook with a gas stove – a right that critics say is only threatened in the minds of the GOP lawmakers behind the bills.
Reps. Andy Biggs of Gilbert, Eli Crane of Oro Valley and 10 other Republicans joined 208 Democrats to block the bills, in a vote that Biggs said was meant to show the conservatives lingering anger with McCarthy’s handling of the debt ceiling agreement.
“We’ll see if he’s really sincere about wanting to put together, again, a Republican coalition,” Biggs said in a tweeted video.
Leaders called for a new vote, but the House recessed Tuesday without any action on the gas-stove bills, part of a package of measures that Republican lawmakers said were aimed at reining in intrusive federal regulation.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, sponsored one of those measures, the Save our Gas Stoves Act. Her bill targets Department of Energy energy-efficiency regulations that Lesko says could eliminate virtually all gas stoves on the market today.
“Let’s protect consumer choice. Let’s save our gas stoves,” Lesko said at a House Republican press conference early Tuesday. She called the efficiency standards another example of “radical, out-of-touch rule” by the department.
The department disagreed, saying in a statement Tuesday the regulations are not going to take away gas stoves.
A spokesperson said the department is required, by Congress and under the terms of a court decree, to set new energy efficiency rules for gas and electric cooktops by January 2024. Those standards would not go into effect until 2027 and would only apply to products entering the market at that time, the spokesperson said.
Joe Vukovich, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Committee, said the regulations on gas stoves aren’t very restrictive. Efficiency regulations have been around for a long time, he said.
“It’s really just kind of an odd battle to pick, I think,” Vukovich said of Lesko’s bill and another aimed at gas stoves. “Honestly, I think it really relies on (an) inaccurate reflection of reality.”
The Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., was also stalled by Tuesday’s protest vote by members of the conservative Freedom Caucus. Armstrong’s bill would prohibit the Consumer Product Safety Commission from using federal funds to regulate gas stoves or enforce product safety standards that prohibit gas stoves or would substantially increase their price.
CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said the bill is unnecessary and may actually do harm if passed.
“The CPSC is not banning gas stoves,” he said in a statement. “However, CPSC’s ability to set standards addressing gas stove safety hazards related to tip-overs, gas leaks, and fire hazards could be hampered by the legislation.”
The Biden administration has also said it is not going after gas stoves, and said the GOP bills would “block common sense efforts to help Americans cut their energy bills.”
“The proposed standards are based on data-driven analysis and longstanding statutory factors,” said a statement released by the White House Tuesday afternoon.
The House was scheduled to vote on Armstrong’s bill Tuesday and Lesko’s on Wednesday. But those plans were put on the back burner when conservatives balked, and a motion to proceed on the bills failed on a 206-220 vote shortly before 3 p.m.
The House recessed shortly after 7 p.m. with no further action on the stove bills, and is scheduled to come back Wednesday morning.