GOP Senate, considering contentious amendments to KXL pipeline bill, declines to acknowledge human cause of climate change

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sponsored an amendment to a controversial pipeline bill that would have put the U.S. Senate on record as acknowledging that humans are responsible for ongoing climate change. Courtesy Wikimedia.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, sponsored an amendment to a controversial pipeline bill that would have put the U.S. Senate on record as acknowledging that humans are responsible for ongoing climate change. Courtesy Wikimedia.

The Senate refused today to acknowledge that humans are causing climate change, defeating an amendment to the controversial KXL pipeline bill by a Hawaiian legislator that would have recognized that “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat, filed the amendment.

“This amendment affirms something very simple; that is, climate change is real and human activities significantly contribute to climate change,” Schatz said when  he introduced the amendment Tuesday. “It also states that a warmer planet causes large-scale changes, including higher sea levels, changes in precipitation, and altered weather patterns, such as increases in more extreme weather events.”

“The purpose of this amendment is simply to acknowledge and restate a set of observable facts,” he continued. “It is not intended to place a value judgment on those facts of suggest a specific course of action in response to those facts.”

The amendment was defeated, 50-49, on a motion to table.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and the influential chairperson of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, urged her Republican colleagues to oppose the Schatz amendment because it contained the word “significantly.”

Earlier, senators accepted another amendment that acknowledges that climate change is occurring but that does not include language that admits human culpability. That provision, proposed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., earned 98 “aye” votes. Only one member of the chamber, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., voted “no.”

According to a report in Science Insider, even climate change denier Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., voted for the Whitehouse amendment, explaining that “climate has always changed” and that “the hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful to think they can change climate.”

The Republicans also introduced an amendment addressing climate change. That measure, sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., specified that climate change is happening and that humans are responsible, but also specified that the KXL pipeline would not contribute to the phenomenon. It failed on a 59-40 vote, falling one vote short of the needed sixty.

The Hoeven amendment was voted own despite support from all but one of the chamber’s Democratic and independent members. The only senator from that group who did not vote for it was Democratic minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is recovering from an injury and has not been present or cast any votes since the 114th Congress opened earlier this month.

Only 15 Republicans voted “yes” for their own party’s amendment to recognize the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Even its sponsor, Hoeven, voted “no.” The only GOP senators to support the amendment were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Yet another climate change-related amendment, this one by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., may yet come to the floor.

Other amendments likely to be considered in coming days include one by Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer that would add to the prerequisites to be met before a President could designate a national monument and another by Utah Republican Mike Lee that would cap attorney fees recoverable by plaintiffs under the Endangered Species Act.


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