The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the Home Star bill, popularly known as “Cash for Caulkers,” that promises thousands of dollars in rebates for homeowners who renovate their homes with better insulation and energy-saving windows and doors.
The bill, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, would authorize $5.7 billion over two years for a program that supporters said would also invigorate the slumping construction industry while reducing energy use.
The bill has received broad support from Democrats but has been criticized by Republicans who say it will exacerbate deficit spending. The bill was approved by a 246-161 House vote, with Republicans overwhelmingly opposing it. The GOP was successful in attaching a condition that the bill would be terminated if Democrats do not come up with a plan to pay for it.
President Obama, following the House vote, said the bill “will help jump-start job growth and demand for new products created right here in America” while trimming homeowner energy bills.
The initiative is separate from an energy tax credit of up to $1,500 that was included in last year's economic-stimulus act. That credit for energy-efficiency improvements runs through the end of this year.
Supporters of the measure say 3 million households could make use of the new program, saving $9.2 billion in energy costs over 10 years. The measure also would create 168,000 jobs, mainly in the recession-hit construction industry, the bill’s backers say. Republicans disagreed, with House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio asking whether it was wise “to authorize $6.6 billion of money we don’t have so we can caulk homes?”
Republicans, however, were able to revise the legislation so that the rebates would go directly to homeowners. In the bill’s original version, homeowners were to receive a discount or rebate from a retailer or contractor, who then would apply for payment from the government.