Suspension votes are generally reserved for non-controversial bills, although this is not the first time Republicans have risked failure by putting a bill on the suspension calendar. In February, for example, the House rejected two bills in this manner -- one instructing the Obama administration to seek repayment from the United Nations, and other to extend Patriot Act surveillance authorities.
During Monday's debate on the lightbulb bill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and other Republicans said federal standards will have the effect of banning incandescent bulbs next year, since they will be unable to meet energy standards that take effect then. Barton said this is a problem because compact fluorescent bulbs and others than can meet the standards are several times more expensive.
Other Republicans argued that by setting efficiency standards, the government is setting requirements in the market that determine winners and losers. "The issue is, should the federal government come in and mandate a monopoly," Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked.
Democrats argued that the bulb standards Republicans were objecting to were supported by Republicans just a few years ago, and were signed into law by President George W. Bush. "This used to be something that we all agreed upon," Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and other Democrats added that while compliant bulbs are more expensive, their efficiency saves consumers money on the other end, and reduces the need for energy production.
Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) tried an unusual route in trying to win Democratic support for the bill -- vanity.
"Here's the bottom line: those of us of a certain age, under a compact fluorescent bulb, we don't look as good as we do under an incandescent bulb," Burgess said to laughter. "Even the former chairman of my committee of Energy and Commerce suffers from what might be called spectrum fatigue under a compact fluorescent bulb."
Burgess was referring to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), now the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman spoke immediately after Burgess to introduce a Democratic speaker, but made no comment on how he or anyone else looks under fluorescent lighting.