Dems Pull All-Nighter on Climate Talk 03/11 07:25
Democratic senators clocked an all-nighter, working in shifts into Tuesday
morning to warn of the devastation from climate change and the danger of
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic senators clocked an all-nighter, working in
shifts into Tuesday morning to warn of the devastation from climate change and
the danger of inaction.
Addressing a nearly empty chamber and visitor gallery, more than two dozen
speakers agreed with each other about the need to act on climate change.
Naysayers --- Republicans --- largely stayed away, arguing hours earlier that
regulation would cost Americans jobs in a sluggish economy.
"We can translate climate destruction into a positive," insisted Sen.
Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who spoke about fuel cells built in Danbury and
other Connecticut cities. He called climate change "implacable, relentless and
only we can stop it."
Hawaii's Brian Schatz said, "Climate change is real, it is caused by humans,
and it is solvable."
In Schatz's view, the debate, such as it was, showed that a growing number
of senators are committed to working together on climate change, even if no
Republicans were among them. "This is where intractable, longstanding issues
get solved," he said of the Senate.
Despite that bravado, Democratic leaders made it clear they have no plans to
bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year. Indeed, the issue is so
politically charged that a host of Democrats who face tough re-election fights
in the fall opted to skip the session. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark
Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina were
among Democrats who stayed away.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Democrats who showed up were not convincing
anyone with their stunt.
"They'll have an audience of themselves, so I hope they enjoy it," Inhofe
said about an hour into the marathon, planned to last for nearly 15 hours.
Inhofe's speech marked the only time Republicans engaged in the debate. Two
other GOP senators, Alabama's Jeff Sessions and Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell of Kentucky, took to the Senate floor earlier Monday to denounce
Democrats before the overnight session began.
McConnell suggested the Democratic motivation was campaign money --- Tom
"It's cruel to tell struggling coal families that they can't have a job
because some billionaire from San Francisco disagrees with their line of work,"
McConnell said. He was referring to Steyer, a former hedge-fund manager and
environmentalist who says he will spend $100 million --- $50 million of his own
money and $50 million from other donors --- to make climate change a top-tier
issue in the 2014 elections.
Leading off, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called climate
change "a question of our own survival" and said the United States and other
countries have a responsibility to act "before it is too late."
House Democrats pushed through a bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions
blamed for global warming in 2009, then lost their majority the following
election. A climate bill led by then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry collapsed in
2010 without a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the climate debate, which had its own
Twitter hashtag, #Up4Climate, had drawn interest from around the nation and the
world. Democrats received two separate petitions urging them to act, with a
total of about 100,000 signatures, Boxer said.
"The American people are listening," Boxer said. "They care." She added that
the event should "wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change."
Boxer and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., lead the recently launched Senate
Climate Action Task Force, which organized the session.
Whitehouse said the session was needed to highlight obstacles to climate
legislation, including ads financed by Charles and David Koch, conservative
activists who have spent $15 million on Senate races, mostly criticizing
Democrats over Obamacare. The Koch brothers, whose interests include oil,
chemicals, textiles and paper, have also spent millions on ads critical of
action against climate change.
Whitehouse conceded that lawmakers do not have the 60 votes needed to act on
the matter, even in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but said the speeches
could help change the dynamic.
"Tonight is not about a specific legislative proposal," he said. "It's about
showing the environmental community, young people and anyone paying attention
to climate change that the Senate is starting to stir and we want to get some
The episode followed overnight speeches last year by Republicans Sens. Rand
Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Paul criticized U.S. drone policy,
while Cruz pushed to take money away from the new health care law.
White House spokesman Jay Carney praised the participants for bringing
attention to "a very important subject that the president is concerned about."
He cited a climate action plan announced by Obama last year. The plan would
impose the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power
plants, as well as boost renewable energy production on federal lands and
increase energy efficiency standards.