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Freedom Stoves

Meet the GOP’s Pro–Childhood Asthma Caucus

Congressional Republicans are trying to pass legislation defending gas stoves from regulatory oversight.

Debbie Lesko speaks into a microphone.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Debbie Lesko outside the Capitol in May 2022

The Biden administration is not trying to take anyone’s gas stove. You’re likely to hear something else from congressional Republicans this week, though, as they attempt to paint commonsense consumer safety regulations as a war on Real Americans’ right to give their kids asthma. This week, House leaders plan to vote on two bills that would prevent the Department of Energy and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission from implementing modest new rules on gas stoves.

Ever since January, when the head of the latter agency hinted at possible regulations for these devices long linked to respiratory ailments and recently revealed to be leaking a known carcinogen, Republicans have been trying to gin up a culture war over kitchen tools. Now right-wing politicians who claim that drag story hours and corporate Pride merch pose an imminent threat to America’s children are leaping to defend appliances linked to nearly 13 percent of all childhood asthma cases. (Children living in homes with gas stoves have a 42 percent greater risk of experiencing asthma symptoms, according to a peer-reviewed 2013 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology.)

In an Oversight Committee hearing last week—held as Republicans brought the country to the edge of default—Republicans laid out the GOP’s pro-asthma talking points. Republican witness Kenneth Stein, of the Charles Koch–backed Institute for Energy Research, called the proposed Energy Department rule to set new energy conservation standards for cooktops “yet another piece of this administration’s whole of government approach to targeting energy sources that it disapproves of for ideological reasons.”

The irony of Republicans trying to transform gas stoves into a culture-war issue is that the people most likely to be using them have elected the people trying to phase them out. The highest rates of gas stove usage are in deep-blue states: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California. Last month, New York passed a measure that will require heating, cooling, and cooking in most new buildings to be electric by 2029. That followed a more stringent rule passed by New York City lawmakers in 2021, ending gas hookups for new buildings that are shorter than seven stories by the end of the year. Republican-controlled states and local governments, by contrast, have passed a number of bills to make such phaseout measures illegal.

A look at major donors to the politicians backing the bills defending gas stoves might shed some light on why they’ve chosen to take up the fight for objects most of their constituents don’t use. The Save Our Gas Stove Act’s lead sponsor, Arizona Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, received $33,500 from PACs linked to the oil and gas industry during the last campaign cycle, including $10,000 from Koch Industries. Roughly 74 percent of homes in Arizona use electric cooking appliances. North Dakota Representative Kelly Armstrong, lead sponsor of the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, accepted a whopping $167,000 from oil and gas industry PACs last cycle. Just 11 percent of homes in North Dakota use gas cooking appliances, according to the Energy U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Democrat Jared Moskowitz—whose district includes Parkland, Florida—trolled colleagues across the aisle with amendments to create a “Supreme Allied Gas Commander to police the use and sale of gas stoves” and consider an honorary statue for gas stoves, prodding Republicans to rename their bill the “Stoves Over Gun Violence Act.”

Republicans’ pro-gas push seemed to be faltering Monday afternoon—albeit not because the GOP started to care about the many harms wrought by gas stoves. As my colleague Grace Segers explained, right-wingers sour over debt ceiling negotiations deprived Congressman Thomas Massey of the votes necessary to start debating his colleagues’ two pro-asthma bills, along with other anti-regulatory measures.