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Sheldon Whitehouse, Oct. 18, 2011, on climate change.  
In October 2011, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat, delivered the first of what has now become his more than 60 weekly speeches about climate change on the Senate floor. It was a low-decibel speech, but nevertheless the kind that peels wallpaper. Tonight, he will be speaking about climate change again. But he won't be alone. Twenty-five other Democratic senators and the two independents in that body will join him, starting sometime after 4 PM ET and going on until around 9 AM Tuesday. A hashtag has been established for the all-nighter: #Up4Climate. Some senior White House officials will be supporting them on social media throughout the night.

Brian Schatz, the Democratic senator from Hawaii, said in a statement: "Congress must act. On Monday night we are going to show the growing number of senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change. On Monday night we are going to show the growing number of senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change."

I'm not given to whining. And this all-nighter by 26 Democrats and two senators who caucus with the Democrats is a good thing. About damn time, in fact. But I gotta ask: Where are the other 27 Democrats? Why aren't they each signed up for a few minutes of talking about climate change? None of them is shy about making their views known on other subjects. What's the obstacle here? Past their bedtimes? It surely isn't because they agree with Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, who denies humans are causing climate change and who said of the all-night speeches:

"For everybody who think it's warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn't," McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer. He then said he opposed US action on climate change. "Even if you conceded the point, which I don't concede, but if you conceded the point, it isn't going to be addressed by one country. So the idea is, we tie our own hands behind our back and others don't. I think it's beyond foolish and real people are being hurt by this."
Surely the 27 Democrats who aren't showing up to speak tonight don't agree with that prime bit of scientifically illiterate denial.

So, is it that they have a problem with what Whitehouse said in that first speech nearly two and a half years ago:

There is a wave of very justifiable economic frustration that has swept through our Capitol. The problem is that some of the special interests—the polluters—have insinuated themselves into that wave, sort of like parasites that creep into the body of a host animal, and from there they are working terrible mischief. They are propagating two big lies. One is that environmental regulations are a burden to the economy and we need to lift those burdens to spur our economic recovery. The second is the jury is still out on climate changes caused by carbon pollution, so we don’t need to worry about it or even take precautions. Both are, frankly, outright false.

Imagine if your child were sick and the doctor said she needed treatment, and out of prudence you went and got a second opinion. Then you went around and you actually got 99 second opinions. When you were done, you found that 97 out of 100 expert doctors agreed your child was sick and needed treatment. Imagine further that of the three who disagreed, some took money from the insurance company that would have to pay for your child’s treatment. Imagine further that none of those three could say they were sure your child was OK, just that they weren’t sure what her illness was or that she needed treatment, that there was some doubt.

On those facts, name one decent father or mother who wouldn’t start treatment for their child. No decent parent would turn away from the considered judgment of 97 percent of 100 doctors just because they weren’t all absolutely certain.

Surely the 27 don't disagree with that. Or perhaps they do. Perhaps it's something to do with this line from the same speech that keeps them off the roster of speakers:
Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder.
Words, of course, only go so far. And while the senators' words tonight are welcome indeed, action matters.

Everybody knows the House of Representatives has almost as many climate-change deniers on board as a creationist conference has Darwin-bashers. So, anything climate-related that the Senate passes stands no chance in 2014 of clearing the scientifically illiterate caucus. But that doesn't make passing a bill a waste of time. Doing so would show Americans what could be done, what would be done with a relatively modest change of elected politicians in Washington.

For now, the senators could pass the Boxer-Sanders legislation, the Sustainable Energy Act and the Climate Protection Act. (See here and here for discussion.)

But even without immediate action, a huzzah to the 28 senators who will be on hand tonight. Perhaps next time, Majority Leader Harry Reid can carve them out a few hours in primetime.

Here is the list of scheduled speakers. If yours isn't on that list, a call to her or his office is in order:

Harry Reid of Nevada, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York, Patty Murray of Washington, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Bill Nelson of Florida, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Udall of Colorado, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Angus King of Maine, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.


A Siegel has a discussion about the all-nighter here.

New Minas has a discussion about it here.

Marcia Yerman has a related discussion about the House Safe Climate Caucus here, a group that now has 38 Democratic members.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 11:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, Climate Hawks, and Daily Kos.

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