WASHINGTON – It’s a lot of hot air about a lot of hot air.
Democrats took to the Senate floor Monday night to talk about global warming and planned not to let up until morning. By midnight, lawmakers had been talking for nearly six hours.
Leading off the dusk-to-dawn talkathon, 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.”
At least 28 senators were expected to participate. But several Democrats who face tough re-election fights in the fall opted to skip the session. Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska were among them.
Democratic leaders have no plans to bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year, so the speeches were about little more than theatrics. 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. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, one of the organizers, said the all-night session showed that a growing number of senators are committed to working together to confront climate change.
“Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable,” Schatz said.
But Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who has written a book denouncing global warming as “the greatest hoax,” said Democrats would not convince anyone with their stunt. “They’ll have an audience of themselves, so I hope they enjoy it,” Inhofe said. Indeed, he was one of only a few Republicans who engaged in the debate. None sided with Democrats.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., retorted that Democrats had received two separate petitions urging them to act, with a total of about 100,000 signatures.
“The American people are listening,” Boxer said. “They care.” 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 that are 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.