Senate Democrats to Launch Climate Offensive

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) speaks to members of the press as she arrives at the weekly Senate Democratic Policy Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol January 29, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Democrats gathered at the luncheon to discuss Senate Democratic agendas. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
National Journal
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Ben Geman
Jan. 8, 2014, 4 p.m.

A group of lib­er­al Sen­ate Demo­crats hopes to play polit­ic­al of­fense on cli­mate change in 2014.

Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., Sen. Shel­don White­house, D-R.I., and oth­ers are plan­ning stepped-up ef­forts to raise the top­ic’s vis­ib­il­ity.

“We are try­ing to breathe some new life in­to the in­form­al co­ali­tion that we’ve had, and make it a little bit more pub­lic and a little bit more ag­gress­ive in its work, get to the floor a little bit more of­ten as a group, do some more joint events here in D.C. and around the coun­try,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Bills to im­pose a car­bon tax or cre­ate a cap-and-trade sys­tem are dead for now, al­though Box­er is non­ethe­less tout­ing le­gis­la­tion to set a price on car­bon emis­sions. And Demo­crats can also try and make head­way else­where.

That in­cludes cre­at­ing polit­ic­al mo­mentum for planned En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency reg­u­la­tions to lim­it car­bon emis­sions from power plants, and oth­er pieces of the White House cli­mate agenda.

“I think ob­vi­ously we are all com­mit­ted to rais­ing the pro­file on this is­sue,” said Sen. Ed­ward Mar­key, D-Mass. “We know that many Re­pub­lic­ans are go­ing to try their best to re­peal the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s au­thor­ity to reg­u­late green­house gases, and so we are go­ing to band to­geth­er and have a fight over those is­sues.”

Aides to Box­er and White­house would not com­ment on the ini­ti­at­ive Wed­nes­day.

It’s one of sev­er­al cli­mate-re­lated ef­forts among Cap­it­ol Hill Demo­crats. In early 2013, White­house and Rep. Henry Wax­man, D-Cal­if., launched the Bicam­er­al Cli­mate Change Task Force, and there’s also the Wax­man-led Safe Cli­mate Caucus, which is a group of House Demo­crats who reg­u­larly take to the floor to dis­cuss glob­al warm­ing.

And Box­er is co­chair of a Sen­ate clear­ing­house cre­ated in 2013 to provide ex­pert brief­ings for sen­at­ors and aides on cli­mate sci­ence and oth­er top­ics.

But now the Demo­crats are look­ing to carve out a more mus­cu­lar role in the Sen­ate for sen­at­ors who say strong ac­tion is needed to tackle green­house-gas emis­sions.

“There is a group of us that have been talk­ing about how to el­ev­ate the pro­file of our ef­forts,” Murphy said.


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