Cynics might well suggest that last night's global warming “talkathon” by Senate Democrats from deep-blue states provided enough hot air to heat up the atmosphere. But such cynicism would miss the deeper significance of a political maneuver that was difficult to rationalize, even by Washington standards. Led by Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the talkathon featured an all-night procession of Democratic senators pouring forth global warming alarmism, derision for global warming “deniers” and strident demands for “action.” Notably absent from the proceedings were Democrats seeking re-election in November from red states -- Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
The talkathon is a product of the Senate's Climate Action Task Force, co-chaired by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Boxer described the purpose of the marathon gabfest as a call to “wake up Congress” for “action” on global warming. That's an odd claim coming from the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Boxer has a solid majority on her committee and could report dozens of bills to the Senate floor. So her committee is the first place to look for an explanation of the lack of action in the Senate.
Even stranger is the fact that Boxer and Whitehouse apparently have forgotten that in 2008, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, it was their Senate that rejected Boxer's cap-and-trade proposal. Do these worthies think Congress went to sleep on the issue after rejecting her bill? More likely, a number of their Democratic colleagues have since recognized the political reality expressed by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown's straightforward explanation for his vote against the Boxer bill. If it ever became law, he said, “we might as well throw a going-away party for the steel industry, the cement industry, the glass industry, aluminum industry, [and] the chemical industry" in his state.
With legislative action unlikely any time soon, the more likely purpose of the talkathon was to generate fresh enthusiasm among the troops who will provide most of the energy on the campaign trail for Democrats across the country during the 2014 election campaign. Environmental activists are as important as labor unions in supplying the manpower required to work the precincts, register new voters, spread the message and get out the vote. That's why groups like the Environmental Defense Fund used their websites Monday to promote the talkathon and capture contact information for new recruits via digital pledge cards.
The elephant on the Senate floor, of course, was the Keystone XL pipeline, which in recent weeks gained new support from unexpected sources, including two former Obama cabinet appointees, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, as well as the president's rich guy, Warren Buffett. But the most unexpected surely was Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of the academic journal Science and former United States Geological Survey director, whose endorsement likely is keeping legions of outraged environmental activists awake all night plotting revenge.