The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Senate votes unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent

Clock-switching would end in 2023 under measure that still must pass the House and get Biden’s signature before it can become law

(Elise Amendola/AP)
4 min

The Senate voted Tuesday to end the biannual practice of “spring forward” and “fall back” under a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent — a move that reflects the increasingly popular view that the twice-yearly disruption hurts sleep and poses health and safety risks.

“Today the Senate has finally delivered on something Americans all over the country want — to never have to change their clocks again,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who co-authored the bipartisan legislation with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), among others.

The legislation, which passed by unanimous consent, must still get through the House and be signed by President Biden to become law. House leaders and White House officials declined to comment on next steps. “The bill just passed this afternoon and we are reviewing it closely," Carlos Paz Jr., a Pelosi spokesperson, said in a statement. Under the measure, the shift to permanent daylight saving time would take effect next year.

The U.S. Senate on March 15 passed a bill to make daylight saving time permanent all year. (Video: The Washington Post)

Murray, chair of the Senate’s health panel, and Rubio have argued that switching clocks back and forth every spring and fall has led to increased heart attacks and strokes, in addition to hurting retailers by curbing daylight shopping hours views long espoused by a gamut of health and business groups. Other senators argued Tuesday that the measure is broadly popular and would increase safety.

“I’ll be working the phones to make sure our colleagues in the House waste no time in finally making Daylight Saving Time permanent,” Murray said in a statement. “There is enough going on as it is — and we can fix this one inconvenience pretty easily. I want to get this done for every person who hates dark afternoons in the winter and losing an hour of sleep every spring.”

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want to stop the twice-per-year clock change, according to an Economist/YouGov poll in November. More than 40 states, including Maryland, are considering their own changes to end the shifting, pending federal legislation.

Congress weighs permanent daylight saving time in a debate as regular as clockwork

Once the clocks are rolled back in the winter, “we have sunset in Rhode Island at 4:15 — 4:15!” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “That means everybody … if they work regular 9-to-5 hours … they are driving home in the pitch dark. And there’s no real need for it. So let’s make it 5:15 instead.”

A House panel last week considered whether to enact permanent daylight saving time, although a neurologist testified that it would be healthier to adopt permanent standard time instead, citing research into circadian rhythms and release of hormones such as cortisol.

“I’m pleased to see momentum building after our hearing last week on the impacts of springing forward and falling back,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The hearing showed there is widespread agreement on coming up with a permanent solution, and I‘m hopeful that we can end the silliness of the current system soon.”

Daylight saving time was created to make better use of sunlight during the summer. But as days get shorter in winter, many people experience depression. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Daylight saving time was first adopted in the United States a century ago but has since been revised repeatedly by lawmakers trying to strike the right balance. The United States in 1974 did move to permanent daylight saving time — a plan backed by President Richard M. Nixon, who argued that it would help conserve energy amid the energy crisis — but the measure was quickly rolled back amid complaints about children going to school in the dark, increased risk of early-morning traffic accidents and fading support.

Springing forward to daylight saving time is obsolete, confusing and unhealthy, critics say

University of Washington law professor Steve Calandrillo, who testified before the House last week and has pushed permanent daylight saving time for more than a decade, said that any change requires a balancing act.

“If we move to permanent daylight saving time, you’re going to create more morning darkness. That will make it hard to wake up and negatively impact people who have to go to work or school early,” he said. “I’m sensitive to that. But human nature is we want to live our lives in the afternoons, in the evenings. We stay up late. We want to go out.”