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Car Charging for Hill Parkers Advances

Electric car owners who work in the Capitol will soon have an easier time recharging their vehicles while they work, thanks to a pair of bills working their way through the legislative pipeline.

The House and Senate have both passed bills tasking the Architect of the Capitol with designating specific parking spaces near electrical outlets in Capitol garages, allowing lawmakers and staffers who drive electric cars to supply their own extension cords to plug in their vehicles.

The bills are nearly identical except for the fact that the House bill would designate parking spaces only in House garages and the Senate bill would deal only with its own garages. This means both chambers have to pass both bills in order for them to be enacted.

The House took that step this afternoon, passing its bill by voice vote and clearing the Senate measure for the president’s signature. The Senate, which passed its bill in May, is now on track to pass the House bill.

Though the House advanced its legislation with ease, earlier concerns in the Senate relating to cost — since allayed — almost derailed the effort.

The Senate bill’s sponsors — Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — and their allies have argued that the measure would come at no cost to taxpayers. While originally the plan was to install recharging stations, the new plan will require the AOC only to supply the necessary manpower to label parking spaces accordingly and to collect monthly fees from individuals who are using electricity to charge their vehicles.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), however, objected to quick consideration of the legislation for nearly a month on grounds that it was a waste of money.

“Sen. McCain objected to [considering] the measure by unanimous consent because there’s no demonstrated need for spending thousands of dollars to install electric car charging stations,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said at the time. “This is an expensive perk for Senators not enjoyed by average Americans.

“If the measure is such a priority, the Majority Leader can schedule floor time on it whenever he sees fit, allowing the Senate to debate and vote on it in the light of day,” Rogers said.

Ultimately, McCain relented.

Meanwhile, industry groups such as the American Public Gas Association and Natural Gas Vehicles for America argued that the measures could send a message that Congress favors one fuel source over another.

But in a statement following House passage of the measures, House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) said facilitating electric car battery recharging would set a meaningful example.

“I am glad I was able to help facilitate House passage of these bills accommodating those with electric vehicles at no cost to taxpayers,” he said. “I believe that it is important to encourage innovation that reduces harmful emissions.”