House Considers Cash for Caulkers Stimulus Bill

Democrats say homeowners could foster jobs, clean up the earth and save themselves money -- just by making their homes more energy efficient under a bill expected to pass the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday.

The Home Star legislation would pay thousands of dollars in rebates over a two-year period to people who install energy-saving products such as insulation, windows and water heaters. It authorizes $6 billion to pay for the program, expected to be used by some 3 million families.

President Obama has actively promoted the bill, which also needs Senate approval. The White House said Wednesday the legislation would "create green jobs in construction and manufacturing, help consumers lower their energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The measure has come to be called Cash for Caulkers, following on the popular 2009 Cash for Clunkers initiative that rewarded people for trading in their vehicles for more fuel-efficient models.

Caulk is a waterproof filler and sealant used in building and repair. A clunker is an old car or truck.

While the bill was headed for passage in the House, some Republicans were skeptical, saying the price tag was too high at a time of mounting federal debts and questioning whether the government could run the rebate program fairly and effectively.

They said a $4.7 billion weatherization program that was part of last year's economic stimulus act has been slow to provide grants to states.

An Associated Press study last November found that the Cash for Clunkers program was commonly used by people turning in old pickups for new trucks that got only marginally better gas mileage.

Rep. Peter Welch, a Democrat and the chief sponsor, said Home Star would create nearly 170,000 jobs in the slumping construction industry and result in consumers saving almost $10 billion on their energy bills over 10 years.

The bill has the backing of a wide spectrum of environmental and business groups.

With House passage, the bill moves to the Senate, where it most likely will be attached to the next jobs bill.