Talk about hot gas. Rick Perry may have affectionately mistaken our site name once, but Senate Democrats could be in position to trademark it for themselves after tonight. The caucus will hold an all-night talkathon to demand action on climate change, which has USA Today very confused. After all … don’t Democrats control that chamber?
A majority of Senate Democrats on Monday will launch an overnight “talkathon” until approximately 9:00 a.m. Tuesday to draw attention to climate change.
The overnight effort, organized by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is part of the recently launched Senate Climate Action Task Force headed by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. …
The Democratic effort is cause for some confusion because these senators are calling for action in a chamber they control but without any specific legislation to offer up for a vote, or any timetable for action this year.
In other words, this is nothing but a stunt — and transparently so. Senate Democrats control all of the Senate committees, and what comes to the Senate floor. Boxer herself is the chair of the committee on environmental affairs, and could push through legislation any time she wants to the floor. They don’t have global-warming legislation bottled up by Republican obstruction, because they don’t have global-warming legislation at all. Why? It would kill any hopes of rescuing red-state seats for Democrats in the upcoming midterms, that’s why.
If these Democrats wanted to do something about this issue, they could put together legislation, and Senate Republicans would have few options to stop them. That isn’t keeping Democrats from blaming Republicans, though. Instead, they’re rallying for more executive action as a way to keep from dealing with the GOP:
Asked about the lack of a legislative proposal to serve as a focus for the talkathon, a Democratic aide suggested minority Republicans are at fault. “Our door is wide open for Republicans to talk through and discuss solutions as soon as they’re ready to accept scientific reality,” the aide said Sunday.
But it’s possible the Democratic campaign has little if anything to do with ever passing a global warming bill. After all, Senate Democrats had a huge, filibuster-proof majority in 2009 and 2010 and did not act on the cap-and-trade bill passed by the Democratic House at the time. It could be that the Senate Democrats’ strategy is more about encouraging the White House to take unilateral executive action on the environment than it is about Senate Democrats sticking their necks out by supporting major legislation in an election year.
“This caucus, what we have done is set up a Climate Action Task Force because we want to encourage the administration to take more action,” said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin when the group introduced itself at a news conference in January. Beyond that, Cardin said, the Task Force wants to block bills that come from the House — no problem there, since that’s something that Majority Leader Harry Reid can do all by himself. Finally, Cardin said, Democrats want to make “incremental progress.” So the talkfest on the Senate floor Monday and Tuesday could well be an extended rah-rah for the White House more than a call to any legislative action.
Here’s a question. Since Senate Democrats don’t want to pass budgets (again demurring this year) and don’t want to write legislation for their own policy agenda, why are they contesting their incumbent Senate seats at all? After all, they’re not terribly interested in governance; they’re mostly interested in expanding the executive branch’s power so they won’t have to do their own jobs. If that’s all Senate Democrats want to do, let them join the executive branch, and Republicans can have their seats instead.
In a related note, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton wonders whether this is the worst Congress ever:
Veteran lawmakers are used to partisanship and stalemate, but they say Capitol Hill has sunk to a new dysfunctional low.
Congress has in some ways already closed for business until after the mid-term election. Any laws made between now and November will be minor.
President Obama’s “year of action” has started slowly and could end up as a punchline. Congressional approval ratings have hit all-time lows.
The relationships between congressional Republicans and Obama as well as between Democratic and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill lack the indispensable element of trust.
Well, when the Senate majority conducts a PR stunt without having the intestinal fortitude to back it up with action, the “dysfunctional” issues are clearly not equally applied across the aisle.