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Second D.C.-Related Mark-Up in As Many Months for the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee (March 7, 2024, Mark-Up) (Part Two – H.R. 7526)

By: Miriam Edelman

This piece, the second of a series of two pieces on the March 7, 2024, full-committee mark-up of the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee, discusses H.R. 7526, the D.C. Consumer Vehicle Choice Protection Act. The first post, entitled “Second D.C.-Related Mark-Up in As Many Months for the U.S. House Oversight and Accountability Committee (March 7, 2024, Mark-Up) (Part One – H.R.7530)” on DCNOW’s blog, was on H.R. 7530, the D.C. Criminal Reform to Immediately Make Everyone Safer (D.C. CRIMES). H.R. 7526 was one of the bills discussed in DCNOW’s “Congress Continues to Interfere with the Nation’s Capital Through New Anti-D.C. Bills” piece.


On March 6, 2024, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson wrote a letter to the House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s Chair James Comer (R-KY) and Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) opposing the committee’s work regarding both bills of the March 7th mark-up. Bowser and Mendelson wrote the following regarding H.R. 7526:

H.R. 7526, the “D.C. Consumer Vehicle Choice Protection Act,” would similarly stand in the way of progress that District officials are attempting to make for our constituents. It would repeal stricter emissions standards for new cars adopted this past December. Under the standards, new cars bought, sold, and registered in the District starting with the model year 2027 would be required to meet emissions standards based on the California Advanced Clean Cars II model, which promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and emissions linked to asthma, lung disease, and cancer—rates of which are high in the District. The District joined 13 states, including neighboring Maryland and Virginia, in adopting these standards. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey have as well, and Connecticut and Delaware have started the process. Enactment of H.R. 7526, then, would make the District an outlier in the Northeast in allowing unhealthy, inefficient gas-powered cars. The bill also ignores the fact that the District’s new policy protects consumers—drivers would be able to keep any gas-engine cars purchased before 2035—as well as the fact that electric vehicles are projected to be as much as $4,000 cheaper than the gasoline-powered equivalent in the coming years. This is on top of the maintenance and fuel savings electric car drivers will see over time.


At the mark-up, the committee considered H.R. 7526, which would repeal a D.C. Department of Energy and Environment rule regarding vehicle emission standards. Comer said that late last year, D.C. issued a final rule, connecting D.C. local regulations with California’s regulations and mandating that new D.C. cars must be zero-emission by 2035. He criticized this “foolish” D.C. rule for decreasing consumer choice. Comer said that D.C.’s EV-charging infrastructure is insufficient for this large amount of EV use and that supply chain issues created a strain for companies. He stated that, “Forcing industry to produce and consumers to purchase expensive and unpopular products only further cripples an already struggling economy.” In charged language, he called D.C.’s rule “reckless” and a “radical mandate.” Comer mentioned the “committee’s constitutional responsibility to oversee D.C.”


Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) opposed H.R. 7526. He began by saying, “What do democracy and clean air have in common? Both are basic human rights that Republicans now want to deny to 700,000 people in Washington, D.C. This is literally a pro-air pollution anti-democracy bill.” Raskin said that it is up to states to do what they want about standards. He defended D.C.’s right to choose the California standard. He said,

“I would never dare to override the local decisions made in their local government, and so, where do we get off with the arrogance, just the royal urge to decree that they've made the wrong decision about this or anything else.”

Then, he asked “What gives us the sense of moral entitlement to make a judgment for 700,000 fellow taxable draft-paying American citizens?” He also said that as most vehicles in D.C. are used cars, people “will still be able to buy gas vehicles for many years.”


Bill sponsor Representative Anna Luna (R-FL) discussed her bill. She said that Consumer Reports stated that 62 percent of African-Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans do not want electric vehicles (EVs). Luna said D.C.’s “out of touch” rule, which her bill would repeal, “does little to benefit economic well-being of American families and national security of our country.” Like Comer, she mentioned D.C.’s lack of a “proper infrastructure.” She criticized D.C., saying “it is clear that DC did not consider the economic well-being or really what the residents wanted before coming up with this policy decision.”


Then, Luna tied EVs to entities larger than D.C:

I always really have an issue when people state that it's people that are interested in big gas and petroleum that are pushing for this when I find that a lot of the EV subsidies are actually going towards large donors for the Democrat Party in 2022.

She stated that people cannot afford electric vehicles. She said, “let's not also forget that the push for this kind of electric vehicle mandate actually benefits our foreign adversaries, particularly China, who makes over 80% of our world's electric batteries.” She mentioned that she co-sponsored many bills on lithium and cobalt mining, which relate to human rights and child slave labor that supply minerals for electric vehicles. She said there could be similar mandates in the U.S., reminiscent of Republicans wanting to use D.C. as a model for election-related laws (as was written in DCNOW’s “D.C. Elections-Related Legislation Update” post). According to Luna, “Sometimes that certain technologies are hidden from the American people to promote what I would say is crony capitalism.”


Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA) defended people who work in Washington, D.C. Luna apologized and clarified that some people in D.C. do not have the same salary as most do outside of D.C.


Then, Connolly spoke about air pollution, which people are responsible for ending “irrespective of where it comes from” because of the Clean Air Act amendments. Connolly said a large amount of the air pollution in D.C. comes from the Ohio Valley. He defended D.C. trying to meet EPA standards partly through D.C.’s rule. Raskin said that the Clean Air Act permits a local area to go with the federal system or follow California’s lead. Raskin agreed that D.C. chose the California approach because of its air pollution, much of which did not originate in D.C. Connolly said that the Clean Air Act and Amendments saved more lives than many Congressional acts.


Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) spoke. She said 80 percent of EV charging occurs at home. She wanted to insert a letter from Bowser and Mendelson opposing H.R. 7526, but Luna objected unless she can get hers in. Raskin withdrew his opposition to Luna’s prior request. All the letters were added to the record, and Norton inserted other letters into the record.


Norton criticized H.R. 7526, referring to it as “undemocratic and paternalistic” and saying it is the “seventh bill on local D.C. matters this committee has marked up or brought directly to the House Floor. While the other bills repeal or amend D.C. statutes, this bill repeals a D.C. regulation.” According to Norton, “it is extremely rare for them [Republicans] to meddle in D.C. municipal regulations,” and “this bill represents a new low in meddling.” Again, she said that Congress has a Constitutional authority, but not to duty, to legislate regarding local D.C. issues. She stated, “there is never justification for Congress repealing or amending laws or regulations enacted by the District of Columbia.” She said that D.C.’s Clean Cars Act of 2008 mandates that D.C. have California’s EV standards and that 13 states, including two represented by Republicans on the committee, adopted these standards. She again said that D.C. residents can vote D.C. Councilmembers, but not Members of Congress, out of office, and she made her usual points regarding the Revolutionary War, taxation without representation, and her D.C. statehood bill. She wanted Members “to keep their hands off D.C., including its regulations.”


Later during the mark-up, the committee passed that bill on a party-line vote (21 Yes to 19 No). Republicans (who voted) voted against the bill, and Democrats (who voted) voted against the bill.


Afterwards, Norton posted a press release, saying:

I strongly oppose both of these paternalistic, undemocratic, anti-D.C. bills. My Republican colleagues are correct that Congress has the constitutional authority to legislate on local D.C. matters, but their assertion that Congress has a constitutional duty to do so is wrong. Republican efforts from members of Congress who do not represent D.C. to impose their will on D.C. residents are always a choice. To suggest that members of Congress representing Florida know or care more about public safety in D.C. than D.C.’s locally elected officials is patronizing. They need to keep their hands off D.C.


Congress needs to stop meddling with local D.C. affairs. It has more important issues to handle than D.C. regulations.


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