Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sen. Boxer and 17 Other Senators Launch Climate Action Task Force. Did Your Senator Join?

Last week, I wrote a diary about how Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were about to launch a Climate Action Task Force in the Senate to bring more attention to the issue of climate change via hearings, legislative battles, internal briefings, among other means, and to build outside support (religious groups, businesses, etc.) in order to counteract the power of fossil fuel interests.

Yesterday, the Task Force officially launched today with 18 members, all from the Democratic caucus (as to be expected).

In the press conference, Boxer acknowledged that legislation like the fee-and-dividend bill she introduced with Senator Bernie Sanders last year would not have the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster but stressed that the Task Force would seek to alter the political climate to make such legislation possible.

Boxer had invited Republican colleagues to join the Task Force; unsurprisingly, none of them accepted her offer. Several members of the Task Force expressed their desire to have Republicans join them on the issue:
“How about we get five Republicans from coastal states whose states are already suffering from sea level rise, droughts, floods and all the rest of it?'' Boxer said. "I'm not going to walk into that issue -- that I have to have 100 percent of Democrats. I don't need 100 percent of Democrats. All I need is a majority of Democrats and Republicans and we will change this place and we will make sure that our grandchildren have a safe planet." …..
"We have to tell Republicans that if they ultimately want to stop the hemorrhaging from young voters in this country, they need to start paying attention to this issue, because only 3 percent of voters 18 to 34 don't believe that climate change is really happening,'' Murphy said. ``Eighty percent of that same cohort of voters support President Obama's climate action plan and three-fourths of young voters would vote against a member of Congress who stands in the way of that plan.''
King acknowledged the "partisan cast'' to the task force, but said for all the talk in Washington about piling debts onto grandchildren, "the most solemn responsibility we have is to leave our descendents with the planet in as good a shape or better than we found it.''

Boxer said she hoped to enlist Republicans from coastal states such as Florida's Marco Rubio. Much of Miami faces inundation from rising seas.

"Florida is a nightmare waiting to happen,'' Boxer said. "I could mention every Republican from a coastal state, they ought to be with us. They ought to be leading the charge. And that's our goal, to wake up Congress.''
Last spring, during the budget vote-a-rama, only one Republican--Susan Collins of Maine--voted against prohibiting the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Boxer seems to acknowledge that winning over a Mary Landrieu or a Joe Manchin is a lost cause and thinks that coastal Republicans might be a better bet because of the tangible impact on their constituents. However, the incentives are just not there right now. By opposing climate action, you can get a lot of money. And since support for climate action tends to be broad but shallow among the public and since the media ignores the issue, you won't risk losing votes by opposing climate action. So legislators go with the money. Until that calculus changes, legislative action will not happen.

The 18 senators in the Task Force are the following:

Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Al Franken (D-MN)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Angus King (I-ME)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

The natural constituencies for the Climate Action Task Force would be the members of the Environmental and Public Works Committee (EPW) and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Boxer, Cardin, Sanders, Whitehouse, Udall, Merkley, and Booker (in rank order) are all on EPW.
The Democrats on EPW who are not (yet) in the Task Force are Max Baucus (MT), Carper (DE), and Gillibrand (NY).

Cantwell, Sanders, Franken, Schatz, and Heinrich all serve on the Energy Committee.
The Democrats on Energy who are not (yet) in the Task Force are Ron Wyden (OR), Tim Johnson (SD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Mark Udall (CO), Joe Manchin (WV), and Tammy Baldwin (WI). Landrieu and Manchin are pretty much lost causes on climate and energy issues.

Of the senators on these two committees, Gillibrand and Baldwin strike me as the ones most supportive of climate action who have not yet joined the Boxer-Whitehouse Task Force.

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