Cash for Caulkers comes to Congress

The U.S. Senate will spend the entire week debating the major financial reform bill designed to create safeguards to avoid another financial disaster. The GOP in the Senate fought a move to proceed to this bill most of last week, while they worked behind the scenes to get some concessions before the bill became pending.

The White House and the Democrats in Congress believe this issue is a win for them as far as being positive and popular with the American electorate. In an April 22-25 ABC News/Washington Post poll it showed that Americans want stricter rules on our financial community by almost 2-to-1. With this in mind, the Democratic Leaders are happy to spend a lot of quality floor time on this issue. The Republicans in the Senate also believe this issue is good for their party. They will fight amendments from the Democrats that “over reach” and go much further than the original bill. Efforts to limit the size of banks and allow breakups by our government, mostly offered by Senator Sanders (I-VT) who is an avowed socialist, will be strongly opposed by the Republicans in the Senate. This “power grab” theme will be echoed all week by the Senate GOP during the consideration of dozens of amendments being prepared for this legislation.

On the House side of the U.S. Capitol, they will be considering a “cash for caulkers” bill: HR 5019.

This legislation calls for a new two-year program to be administered through the Energy department that will allow up to $3,000 for rebates to homeowners who conduct whole-home energy audits or hire certain licensed contractors to make energy-efficient improvements, including adding insulation, installing energy-efficient water heaters, windows and the like. These contractors must be licensed under the BPI (building performance institute), North American Technician Excellence and/or the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

The price for this two-year program is $6 billion and at least 60% of these funds must be spent on the rebates to homeowners. That could mean that up to 40% could be used to administer the program, which will be run through each state’s energy agency. It sounds like Members of Congress as well as most state Governors will applaud and gravitate to this legislation if for no other reason because of the quick administration fees that will be flowing. This writer is guessing that during the debate on the House floor later in the week, very little will be said about this $6B tab being added to our debt.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of