Thirty Senate Democrats plan to raise climate change’s profile by staging a talk-a-thon that will last from Monday night through around 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. The event, organized by members of the two-month-old Senate Climate Action Task Force, will try to combat years of American ambivalence on the issue and Republican attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who planned the gabfest with Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), said on a call with reporters the night is a “signal of a much larger confidence to get a significant climate bill passed in Congress,” while acknowledging that they weren’t going to introduce a legislative proposal as it “probably wouldn’t be successful” without first heightening public awareness of the issue.
Schatz stated that the message of the night is that climate change is “real,” “caused by humans,” and “happening now,” a direct attack aimed at Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who denied the existence of man-made climate change a few days ago, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, McConnell called the Democrats’ event “30 hours of excuses.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, meanwhile, has said that he is unsure of what’s causing climate change. The Republican-controlled House voted last week to block the Administration’s move to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, the most significant piece of the President’s plan set last June to address climate change. The President, meanwhile, has addressed environmental issues through executive actions since at least 2010, when Congress failed to pass cap and trade with Democratic majorities in both chambers. Whitehouse says “those days are over” and that a new political coalition will make a bill “inevitable.”
Monday night’s event has the support of the White House and the top three Senate Democrats—Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and Chuck Schumer. The new message campaign also coincides with an election-year push by billionaire Tom Steyer to make climate change a deciding factor in this year’s midterms. Steyer plans on counteracting the conservative political network orchestrated by the Koch brothers with a pledge to raise up to $100 million for environmentally friendly candidates. However, there is little expectation on Capitol Hill that the new movement will yield anything concrete this year.