Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change

Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change
© Greg Nash

Three Senate Democrats are calling on NBC News to have its first presidential debate focus exclusively on climate change.

Sens. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act MORE (Hawaii), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseWarren: Congress should remove funding cap for small business aid in coronavirus bill Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Overnight Energy: Coronavirus package punts on environmental fights | Court sides with tribes in Dakota Access Pipeline case | Trump officials walk away from ethanol court fight MORE (R.I.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote MORE (N.M.) said in a letter to NBC's top brass that the 2016 debates improperly shortchanged a topic of high interest to Democratic voters.

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“There are many ways to address the climate crisis, and voters want to know what policies each candidate supports," the trio wrote in a letter to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack. "Voters deserve a vigorous debate with an informed moderator that can press candidates for detailed answers and hold them accountable."

Environmental groups and several 2020 candidates have also called for a climate-centric debate. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Mnuchin, Schumer in talks to strike short-term relief deal | Small businesses struggling for loans | Treasury IG sends Dems report on handling of Trump tax returns Trump says Obama knows 'something that you don't know' about Biden Senators push for changes to small business aid MORE (D-Mass.) joined that chorus last week, following a similar request from Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington, Oregon show promising coronavirus trends Overnight Defense: 10,000 more National Guard troops to join coronavirus fight | Democrats float bill to restore Pentagon watchdog to virus oversight panel | Afghanistan releases 100 Taliban prisoners Washington state returning field hospital to FEMA MORE (D).

The senators said in Thursday's letter, first reported by the Daily Beast, that the 2016 debates devoted just five minutes to climate change, while recent polling shows the topic is of increasing concern to party voters.

“Democratic voters across the country have accepted the facts about climate change, are seeing its impacts, and are having real debates on solutions. In this consequential election year, it’s time for our candidates to do the same,” they wrote.

An April poll from CNN found that 82 percent of registered voters who identified as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents listed climate change as a "very important" top priority they would like to see as the focus of a presidential candidate.

The first 2020 Democratic primary debates are slated for the end of June.