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January 22, 2015
Sanders to Republicans: Believe in Climate Science?
    by Robert Kropp

After assurances by by Republican leader McConnell that all amendments to a bill to approve the Keystone pipeline will be voted on, the Senate votes not to vote on amendment submitted by Senator Sanders of Vermont. Second of a two-part series.

The new Republican Congressional majority has wasted no time in buckling down to address two of the major issues facing the economy and the environment. The problem is that as expected, the Republicans have adopted positions on the issues that that seek to overturn fragile gains in economic and environmental sustainability.

First, the House of Representatives passed an Omnibus Bill that rolls back critical protections included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, passed by a bipartisan Senate as recently as 2010. The provisions, part of what is known as the Volcker Rule, prevent too big to fail banks from diverting taxpayer-insured deposits to fund excursions into collateralized debt obligations. CDOs are the very financial instruments whose collapse contributed significantly to the 2008 financial crisis and the global recession that followed.

Then, Republicans in the Senate turned their attention to ensuring that their well-heeled friends in the fossil fuel industries would not be impaired by such trivialities as the gathering crisis of climate change by preparing to vote in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would transmit crude oil from the environmentally destructive tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Not only would the construction of the pipeline do anything to strengthen the so-called energy independence of the United States; it would further enshrine the disinclination of the world's second-largest emitter to act meaningfully against climate change.

Also, despite the Republicans' protestations to the contrary, construction of the pipeline will not result in anything more than a marginal increase in the number of long-term jobs.

In an effort to gain enough support from Democrats to withstand a likely veto from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed an open amendment process. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was quick to take McConnell up on his offer, submitting a Sense of Congress Amendment which “would put the Senate on record acknowledging that climate change is being caused by humans and is a major threat to the planet” by requiring a vote on whether members believe the overwhelming scientific consensus on the reality of the crisis.

“The American people need to know whether Congress is listening to the overwhelming majority of scientists when it comes to climate change,” Sanders said.

A recent study compiled by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that among the 30% of Republicans self-identified as moderate or liberal, two-thirds believe the scientific consensus on climate change. According to Cl imate Progress, however, 50% of House Republicans and 70% of those in the Senate “deny the occurrence of human-caused global warming.”

“On average, Senate deniers took $732,788 from fossil fuel interests while other Senators took $182,902,” Think Progress found. “On average, House deniers took $272,536 from coal, oil and gas interests while other members took $80,095.”

As it turns out, McConnell's promise of an open amendment process was not quite as it was made out to be; Senate Republicans voted to table the amendment submitted by Sanders, effectively voting to not vote on it.

“Scientists have been virtually unanimous in saying that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, that it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world and that it is imperative that we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” Sanders said in a floor speech. “Do members of Congress believe the scientists or not?”

Democrats suggested that McConnell “cut debate short to let Republicans head to a weekend conference for a group affiliated with the Koch brothers,” CNN reported.


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