Signs of Light? Climate Change Caucus Forms in Senate

"I think you are going to see a lot of bills on climate change," said Senator Barbara Boxer as she took the lead in forming a climate change caucus in the Senate.

That’s music to our ears, along with this: "There will be a lot of different bills on climate change. I have already spoken to three colleagues that have bills in the works."

Boxer (D-CA) says it’s finally time to bring the discussion of climate change out of the shadows, and that superstorm Sandy "changed a lot of minds" on the topic.

As Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer says people are coming up to me, they really want to get into this. 

The caucus will "work with all the committees and all the committee chairmen to make sure we can move forward legislation that reduces carbon pollution and also works on mitigation and all of the other elements," she says. No Republican has signed on yet, but she’s hopeful some will participate.

Legislation is already being crafted by Democrats to improve  coastal resilience to storms such as Sandy, and Boxer also wants measures to address greenhouse gas emissions.

There’s also a caucus in the House forming to address energy efficiency in federal buildings.

Fix the Filibuster

In related news, environmental groups joined social justice groups and unions in calling for changes to filibuster rules in the Senate.

The Senate has been paralyzed by a record-breaking number of filibusters since Obama became president. Just about every bill has been filibustered by the Republican minority (about 350 filibusters so far), making it impossible to move forward on legislation and installing judges and heads of agencies.

The "Fix the Senate Now" campaign sent a letter to Senate leaders, saying:

"The country cannot afford another two years of inaction fostered by outmoded and broken legislative institutions… Whereas Senators once resorted to filibustering only in rare and exceptional instances of intense opposition, rampant obstruction has now transformed standard operating procedure. Today, majority rule in the Senate is the exception, not the rule."

They recommend:

  • Eliminating the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed;
  • Require those who want to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster- i.e., mandating "talking filibusters";
  • 41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate;
  • Streamline the nomination process so that nominees will get a yes or no vote on the Senate floor, including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to 2 hours.
  • "Requiring those wishing to slow down or halt legislation through the Senate rules to do so publicly on the Senate floor would raise the costs of obstruction so that the filibuster is reserved for instances in which a dedicated minority is intensely opposed to legislation." 

    Here’s the letter and signatories:

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    Comments on “Signs of Light? Climate Change Caucus Forms in Senate”

    1. Dasha

      I’m sure this is some highly paoctiill reasoning behind why DC has never had a vote. But no one has ever fully explained to me why a country that was founded after a big “taxation without representation” fight left a whole city without actual representation. It’s no longer part of a state, and probably for its uniqueness shouldn’t get state status, but a Congressional member with voting power would be nice. Chocolate City is full of very real people.


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