Democrats launch donor-friendly climate change show on Senate floor

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On Monday night into Tuesday morning, two dozen Senate Democrats -- members of the party's newly-formed Climate Action Task Force -- plan to hold a all-night, filibuster-like talkathon on the issue of global warming. "Congress must act," Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, a leader of the group, said in a statement. "On Monday night we're going to show the growing number of senators who are committed to working together to confront climate change."

Senator after senator will undoubtedly join Schatz in insisting that Congress must act. But the Democratic talkathon is not about any action in particular. It's not being staged in support of, or opposition to, any specific legislative proposal. And if there were proposed legislation under consideration, Democrats could just pass it, or at least bring it up for debate and a vote, because they control the Senate with a 55-seat majority. But that, apparently, is not the point of the all-nighter. "The Democratic effort is cause for some confusion," USA Today reported over the weekend, "because these senators are calling for action in a chamber they control but without any specific legislation to offer up for a vote, or any timetable for action this year."

Asked about the lack of a legislative proposal to serve as a focus for the talkathon, a Democratic aide suggested minority Republicans are at fault. "Our door is wide open for Republicans to talk through and discuss solutions as soon as they're ready to accept scientific reality," the aide said Sunday.

But it's possible the Democratic campaign has little if anything to do with ever passing a global warming bill. After all, Senate Democrats had a huge, filibuster-proof majority in 2009 and 2010 and did not act on the cap-and-trade bill passed by the Democratic House at the time. It could be that the Senate Democrats' strategy is more about encouraging the White House to take unilateral executive action on the environment than it is about Senate Democrats sticking their necks out by supporting major legislation in an election year.