Senate Democrats Push Climate-Change Vote With Eye to 2016 Races

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Senate Agrees That Climate Change is Real, but Can’t Agree on What’s Causing It.

The series of votes publicly tested Republicans’ stance on global warming just days after two federal agencies declared 2014 the hottest year on record and hours after President Barack Obama called global warming one of the greatest threats to future generations. Let it be recorded for history that late in the afternoon of January 21, 2015, the United States Senate formally acknowledged that climate change is real.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has labeled the immigration reform bill the House is looking to bring to the floor for a vote next week “the most significant and toughest border security bill ever set before Congress,” but members from both sides of the aisle say the legislation doesn’t pass muster. “This is a horror of a bill,” Rep. Senate Democrats are maneuvering to put Republicans on the record as denying that humans cause climate change, laying groundwork on a contentious issue as part of their strategy to retake the majority in 2016.

Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) told The Hill. “The cost is enormous, and it’s just impossible for the Homeland Security Department, I believe, to even engage in some of the responsibilities being asked for.” According to The Hill, McCaul’s bill is “designed to secure the southern border by requiring the Homeland Security Department to block all illegal migrations within five years, or two years for high-traffic regions.” But some lawmakers like Rep. The first vote raised eyebrows given the GOP’s general rejection of Democratic arguments that the climate is changing because humans are polluting the planet. In a development that stunned Democratic senators and environmental groups, the most prominent climate change contrarian in the Senate, Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., joined Democratic Sen. The Senate on Wednesday, by a vote of 50-49 with 60 votes required, rejected an amendment that would have designated climate change as a man-made event. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) say that the bill is more than just difficult to implement — it’s also just bad policy. “This needs a big fix, and tinkering on the edges doesn’t solve it,” Becerra said. “And trying to avoid dealing with the tough issues is a wimpy way to make policy in Washington, D.C.” Not all of McCaul’s criticism is coming from the left, though.

Jeff Sessions of Alabama echoed the Democrats’ frustration with the immigration legislation, saying, “We cannot be satisfied with measures that create the appearance of doing something while changing little.” At last, something both sides can agree on. But “there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate.” Many in his party were also unwilling to back measures Wednesday that said human activities — primarily the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and factories — contributed to the warming of the planet. Senate really are.” The amendment, offered by Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, would have deemed that “climate change is real” and that “human activity significantly contributes” to it. “Obviously, it’s a very politically motivated vote,” he said. “They would love to get a bunch of Republicans voting against those amendments.” Five Republicans voted in favor of Schatz’s amendment — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mark Kirk of. With most Republicans opposed, an amendment stating so fell a single senator short of the 60-vote threshold (this is the Senate, after all) for passage.

If Whitehouse’s amendment had included one additional word or phrase, such as “man-made,” it wouldn’t have drawn Inhofe’s support, or that of many of his Republican colleagues. The vast majority of scientists have cited pollution from fossil fuels, chiefly emissions of carbon dioxide, as the main culprit in the Earth’s temperature rise. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) foiled the Democrats’ plot by openly declaring his support for the amendment, and even asking that he be made a cosponsor of the language. Republicans next year must defend 24 Senate seats compared with 10 for Democrats, a reversal from the past two elections when significantly more Senate Democrats were on the ballot. In short, Democrats were trying to take advantage of a pledge by the new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to open up the floor to amendments after years in which Republicans complained that Harry Reid shut down debate, and shut down the minority party.

Before the vote, he explained that while the climate does change, the idea that man is responsible is a “hoax.” It is actually arrogant, said Inhofe, to assume that man has the power to affect the climate. In offering his amendment, Whitehouse, who has tirelessly given dozens of climate science speeches on the Senate floor in the past few years, pleaded for bipartisanship. The amendments would not have substantively changed the bill or any other aspect of federal policy—they merely stated what “the sense of the Senate” was on the topic.

Man can’t change climate,” he said. “I ask my colleagues to vote for the Whitehouse/Inhofe amendment.” The more important vote came soon after, when the Senate considered language from Sen. But from a legislative standpoint, they wanted a baseline vote to see just how far they needed to go to persuade the GOP to support federal policies—a carbon tax, for example—aimed at reversing climate change. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska.) noted the difference, and called on senators to vote against it. “There is a distinct difference between this amendment and what we just previously considered,” she said. The amendments are part of the Senate’s underlying debate over legislation to authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which President Obama has threatened to veto in part because a State Department review of the project is still underway.

While Schatz’s language failed because of the artificial 60-vote threshold, it does show that bare majority of senators believe humans are contributing to climate change. Supporters of the pipeline contend that it will create fewer carbon emissions than transporting the oil by rail. “For you to deny us the ability to build this pipeline that would make us more energy independent from overseas fossil fuels is shortsighted and does not advance the cause of climate change,” Graham said, “It is gimmicks like this and tricks like this that hurt your cause. The Senate held four other votes on amendments today, but all of them failed, in large part because the two parties agreed that 60 votes would be needed to pass them. The votes came a day after President Obama’s State of the Union address in which he tweaked a popular Republican talking point on global climate change. “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists, that we don’t have enough information to act.

Mike Lee (R-Utah), for example, had a proposal to cap legal fees that can be recouped when parties successfully sue the federal government under the Endangered Species Act, but it failed 54-45. Graham announced on Sunday that he is considering a run for president in 2016, and Kirk is facing a potentially tough re-election fight in a blue state.

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