Sanders rebuffed on amendment stating climate change is real

Greg Nash

A Senate panel on Wednesday rejected a push from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe “Do-nothing Congress” moved the needle on drug reform Trump can still win Apathy: The real risk a Trump presidency poses to democracy MORE (I-Vt.) to acknowledge climate change in an energy reform bill. 

Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, had pushed an amendment to the chamber’s energy bill affirming the sense of Congress that climate change is real and that more needs to be done in the energy sphere to confront it.

“I think, for those who are planning to vote against the amendment, speak to your kids, think about your grandchildren,” Sanders said at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee mark-up. “Because I think that history will record you on the very, very, very wrong side of this enormous issue.”

The whole Senate voted on similar climate change resolutions earlier this year. Democrats on the committee, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and ranking member Maria CantwellMaria CantwellThe most important question in 2017: how do we get to yes? US wins aerospace subsidies trade case over the EU Wells CEO Stumpf resigns from Fed advisory panel MORE (D-Wash.), spoke in favor of Sanders's proposal, even as they noted that the measure was a mostly symbolic addition to the energy package. 

“I don’t think the world is going to change overnight because of the Sanders amendment, but I do think it’s the recognition that a transformation has to happen.” Cantwell said. 

But most members — including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — were opposed. Committee chairwoman Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiThe most important question in 2017: how do we get to yes? Writing in Mike Pence won’t do any good in these states GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE (R-Alaska) said the provision was unnecessary because of the resolution senators approved this session and because of the work members put into the underlying bill.   

“I think everything that we have done along the way is designed to move us towards that cleaner, more efficient, more responsible, greater focus on our environment, while at the same time ensuring a level of affordability and access to all Americans,” she said.

Senators worked through 20 amendments to the energy bill on Wednesday — including 12 non-controversial provisions they lumped together and passed as one — bringing their tally to 45 over two days. Members introduced 94 amendments to the bill before the mark-up began.

The hearing had a sharper edge than the first mark-up meeting on Tuesday.

A debate flared up over an amendment from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) requiring regulators to perform an environmental review before approving new liquefied natural gas export permits. The underlying bill, Republicans noted, looks to speed up permitting, and the amendment was likely to slow it down instead.

“I believe that this amendment, if adopted, would severely degrade the bipartisan support that this legislation currently enjoys,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Black ties and french fries mingle at DC's Meridian Ball GOP seeks to block ObamaCare settlements with insurers MORE (R-Wyo.) said.

The climate change and export amendments were among the first to reveal the political hatchets members have buried to try advancing the energy bill.

Much of Tuesday’s hearing looked like the first a three-day victory lap for Murkowski, Cantwell and the committee. In discussing the bill, members often lauded the bipartisan nature of it and the congenial way with which the committee was marking it up.

Ahead of the climate change and natural gas export debates, that mood was present on Wednesday. Before the committee rejected a Sanders measure to provide grants for low-income families to buy solar panels for their homes, Murkowski joked that the proposal’s acronym — "LISA" — might be a long-shot play to try winning her support.

“I’m trying to get your vote on this,” Sanders joked. “It was going to be ‘Barrasso,’ but it doesn’t quite fit.”

Murkowski said after the hearing that the amendments members pushed Wednesday were likely the most contentious the committee would consider. The committee will meet again Thursday to mark up the bill.