Republicans and Democrats in a bitterly divided Washington appear to agree on one thing: the twice-yearly ritual of changing the clocks must end.
Even with that rare display of bipartisanship, it is unclear whether the county will be able to reach an agreement on a common time standard.
The United States Senate unanimously approved legislation on Tuesday that would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent, eliminating the need for Americans to “fall back” or “spring forward,” as the saying goes, to help them remember which way to adjust their clocks.
“I want to beat the hell out of ‘setting clocks back’ in a field,” tweeted Jason Kander, a Democrat who previously served as Missouri Secretary of State. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives, taken aback by the Senate’s quick approval, promised to address the issue as well.
“That was unexpected,” said Democratic House leadership member Hakeem Jeffries. “I believe it is an important step for us to take.”
Opinion polls show that the annual switch between Standard Time, which aims to maximize daylight during winter mornings, and Daylight Saving Time, which delays sunset by an hour during the spring, summer, and fall, is widely disliked by Americans. Except for Hawaii and Arizona, every state in the United States alternates between the two.
Researchers have discovered a number of drawbacks, including a documented increase in heart attacks, strokes, and sleep deprivation in the days following the March time change. There is less agreement on which standard should be made permanent by Congress.
Daylight Saving Time supporters claim that the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon boosts economic activity and reduces crime and traffic accidents during the evening rush hour, when children are more likely to be out playing and drivers are more likely to have alcohol in their systems.
In congressional testimony last week, University of Washington law professor Steve Calandrillo said, “It is past time that we set our clocks forward forever.”
According to sleep researchers, Standard Time corresponds to the human biological clock, which requires light to be fully alert. A year-round Daylight Saving Time, as proposed by the Senate bill, would force children to go to school in the dark and make it more difficult for them to go to bed at a reasonable hour, according to Vanderbilt University neurologist Beth Malow, who testified before Congress last week.
Daylight Saving Time was first implemented in 1918 in order to save fuel during World War I. According to the Congressional Research Service, studies have found little, if any, energy savings from the switch.
When oil prices spiked in 1974, Congress tried year-round Daylight Saving Time, but dropped it that fall.
In recent years, there has been an increase in support for a permanent standard. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states have passed laws requiring year-round DST if Congress does not act.
“I’m hopeful that we can put an end to the absurdity of the current system soon,” Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, who chaired a hearing on the issue last week, said.
Others have stated that they do not want to switch to a standard that will result in dark winter mornings.
“Permanent Standard Time is preferable to me” (as would the research). But I’ll take anything if we can #LocktheClock,’ chaplain Father Dan Beeman tweeted.
Some questioned why the Senate, which has failed to address major issues such as climate change, inflation, voting rights, and others, was wasting its time on time. “This is stupid and shows how messed up our moral conscience is!” Rev. William Barber III, a civil-rights leader, wrote on Twitter.
Others turned to sarcasm. Geopolitical analyst Eric Garland tweeted: “BREAKING: CONGRESS MAY DO SOMETHING AWESOME”