Is the GOP fiddling while incandescent lights--not to mention this great Republic — burn?

That was the message from Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Democrat from Northern Virginia, who delivered a floor speech Wednesday criticizing Republicans for wasting time with a bill that would repeal four-year-old energy efficiency standards to protect the trusty incandescent light bulbs.

At a time when the U.S. is mired in three wars, the economy is sputtering, and both parties are playing chicken over the possibility of a catastrophic financial default looming, Congress should not be worked up over tea party-fueled rumors that the Obama administration plans to eliminate the incandescent light bulb, Connolly said. He even tossed in some references to the devastating sweep of tornadoes, global warming, and recent “floods of biblical proportions.”

“In response to these existential threats at home and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for democracy abroad, the Republican leadership has brought to the floor a bill to repeal a nonexistent ban on incandescent light bulbs, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bush,” Connolly said.

The “Better Use of Light Bulbs,” or BULB Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), would have repealed lighting efficiency standards adopted in 2007. After being brought to a vote under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority, the bill failed to pass late Tuesday by a vote of 233 to 193, with one member voting present.

Barton, however, vowed to fight on against what he said was a de facto ban on the incandescent bulb.

“It’s a victory in the sense that we got a majority vote, but we didn’t get over the procedural hurdle,” Barton said in a written statement. “But this vote clearly shows which party is for bigger federal government involvement in people’s daily lives and which is for consumer choice. Why in the world should the federal government tell people what kind of lights they can buy for their homes?”

Given its subject matter and the timeworn genre of lightbulb jokes, the bill elicted more than a few wisecracks, as noted in a compilation by Reuters.