Wednesday, January 15, 2014
by Dean Scott
In a bid to shore up their
defense of President Barack Obama's efforts to put limits on U.S. power plant
greenhouse gas emissions, 17 Democrats and two independents launched a new
Senate caucus this week to begin the long journey to resurrect climate
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who heads the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters Jan. 14 she sees the
group as a sort of rapid response team that can help her defend Obama's
climate plan, mainly from Republicans who are once again targeting the
Environmental Protection Agency's rules.
But in launching their
Senate Climate Action Task Force, Democrats want their new caucus to begin
what is likely to be a multi-year effort to revive climate legislation that
died in the Senate in 2010. The caucus includes relatively new arrivals to
the Senate from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to
Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the co-author of a cap-and-trade bill that
cleared the House in 2009.
To bolster their efforts, they recently
got Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reserve a “permanent” spot each
Tuesday at the party’s strategy lunches for a senator to discuss climate
change with that long-term view in mind. They readily acknowledge passage
of U.S. carbon caps is years away given staunch opposition in the
Republican-controlled House and among most Senate Democrats.
Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of Boxer’s new caucus who gave the climate
speech at the Jan. 14 luncheon, told Bloomberg BNA beforehand that he would
highlight how the new 19-member caucus can be more forceful in battling
climate skeptics and defending the climate action plan Obama unveiled last
“I will let them know the resources that we have with this
group of senators and will assure them we will be using every opportunity
we can to underscore the undisputed science” that human activities are
“accelerating” global warming, Cardin said.
The Maryland Democrat said
he also would stress that “there’s a workable way” to cut U.S. emissions
including ongoing EPA efforts to curb power plant emissions. Cardin said he
would also remind his colleagues that Obama—a president who has made
climate action a priority—was easily reelected in 2013.
made progress because we have a president who cares about climate change—so
elections matter,” according to Cardin.
Democrats also would be urged
to look for ways to “make positive progress where we can” either by pushing
for more executive branch action or passing modest bills that increase
conservation, or encourage more energy efficiency in buildings and use of
Others Democrats joining Boxer in her new climate
caucus include Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Robert Menendez (N.J.),
Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Jeff
Merkley (Ore.), Al Franken (Minn.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Richard
Blumenthal (Conn.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and Chris
Two independents who caucus with Senate
Democrats—Sens. Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.)—also have joined
President Obama’s climate efforts will also be in the
spotlight Jan. 16, when Boxer’s committee holds the first Senate climate
hearing of the year. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and other administration
officials are expected to trumpet the president’s plan at the
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