About 30 Senate Democrats wrapped up nearly 15 hours of speeches on climate change on Tuesday morning in a very public embrace of a cause many once fled as political poison.
The all-nighter for the climate a carefully orchestrated event endorsed by the White House, Democratic donors and environmental groups was the 35th overnight session in Senate history.
The event made recent political history too with the most senior senators in the Democratic party, including majority leader Harry Reid, now publicly identifying with a cause they shunned in 2010, after failing to get a climate bill through Congress.
“It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress have a valid point of view,” Reid said.
The 28 Senators represented about half of the Democratic caucus in the Senate. Senators from oil and gas states and those facing tough re-election battle stayed away and only one Republican spoke, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.
Inhofe, who has called climate change a “hoax”, delivered a rambling speech in the same vein.
The senators who organized the all-night event Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island acknowledged it had no chance of advancing the prospects for a climate bill in the immediate future.
In large part, that decision was forced on Democrats by wealthy donors, such as former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who has said he will spend up to $100m for pro-climate candidates in the next election cycle.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our generation,” he said. “I applaud the more than two dozen US Senators who will be … on the Senate floor this evening to have a real conversation on this critical issue,” he said.