In US Senate, Democrats talk climate all night

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Associated Press

Posted on March 11, 2014 at 6:04 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Senators have found plenty of common ground in an overnight debate about climate change that has been characterized by civil exchanges from lawmakers who hear plenty to like in each other's words. Could this really be happening in Washington?

Sure, when only one party shows up.

Democrats have been plowing through a dusk-to-dawn talkathon during which more than two dozen speakers have agreed with each other about the need for action on climate change. Naysayers — Republicans — largely stayed away.

"Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable," said Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.

In Schatz's view, the debate, such as it was, showed that a growing number of senators are committed to working together on climate change, even if no Republicans were among them. "This is where intractable, longstanding issues get solved," he said of the Senate.

Despite that bravado, Democratic leaders made it clear they have no plans to bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year. Indeed, the issue is so politically charged that a host of Democrats who face tough re-election fights in the fall opted to skip the session.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe said Democrats who showed up were not convincing anyone with their stunt.

"They'll have an audience of themselves, so I hope they enjoy it," Inhofe said about an hour into the marathon, planned to last for nearly 15 hours. Inhofe's speech marked the only time Republicans engaged in the debate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called climate change "a question of our own survival" and said the United States and other countries have a responsibility to act "before it is too late."

House Democrats pushed through a bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming in 2009, then lost their majority the following election. A climate bill led by then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry collapsed in 2010 without a vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney praised the participants for bringing attention to "a very important subject that the president is concerned about." He cited a climate action plan announced by Obama last year. The plan would impose the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, as well as boost renewable energy production on federal lands and increase energy efficiency standards.

There were overnight speeches last year by Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Paul criticized U.S. drone policy, while Cruz pushed to take money away from the new health care law.

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Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

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