Susan Davis, USA TODAY 12:20 p.m. EDT March 9, 2014
(Photo: Charles Dharapak AP)
WASHINGTON—Just don’t call it a filibuster.
A majority of Senate Democrats on Monday will launch an overnight “talkathon” until approximately 9:00 a.m. Tuesday to draw attention to climate change.
The overnight effort, organized by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is part of the recently launched Senate Climate Action Task Force headed by Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
In a statement, Boxer said Democrats want to “wake up Congress” to the dangers of climate change.
The marathon session is not technically a filibuster in part because there is no legislation under debate, but overnight sessions are rare and likely to draw media attention to the topic — which is precisely the goal.
The most recent overnight “talkathon” session was led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last September in an unsuccessful but highly public effort to block a stopgap spending bill.
The Democratic effort is cause for some confusion 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.
Whitehouse spokesman Seth Larson said the overnight event is “just one of a number of steps that the Senate Climate Action Task Force will be taking this year, and we hope it will help get more Americans engaged in the important debate about how we can act on climate change.”
The issue of climate change is politically volatile, and Congress has shied away from serious legislative efforts since 2010, when House Democrats narrowly approved a bill to cap carbon emissions. That bill was ultimately viewed as contributing to the party’s electoral losses that year. Senate Democrats never took it up.
Democrats have 28 senators scheduled to speak through Monday night, but some of the party’s most vulnerable senators facing re-election this year—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina—are notably missing from the lineup.