Senators to Hold Marathon All-Night Session on Greenhouse Gas

Twenty-eight senators plan to talk all night Monday to dramatize their concern about greenhouse gasses and climate change. The 28 are Democrats, to be joined by two independents, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sen. Angus King of Maine, who caucus with the Democrats.

Since 1915, the Senate has held 34 all-night sessions, according to the Senate Historical Office.

All-nighters have been held to debate bills, such as the 1964 civil rights bill, or to debate contentious nominations as in 2003 when for 53 straight hours the Senate debated President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations which Democrats had blocked votes on.

No climate change legislation is before the Senate at the moment and apparently none will be voted on soon. But Sen. Barbara Boxer, D- Calif., and other senators in the Senate Climate Action Task Force, which was launched in January, see their role as “to wake up the Congress.”

“We’re very realistic politicians — we understand that the makeup of Congress now is making it very difficult for us to pass climate change legislation,” Boxer told reporters when she and her allies launched their task force. “But we will not sit back and give up, but we will raise the visibility of this issue with the intent of changing minds” among other members of Congress.

Last March the Senate voted 58 to 41 to defeat an amendment offered by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D- R.I., to impose a fee or tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Thirteen Democrats voted against that amendment.

The recent high-water mark for greenhouse gas legislation came in June of 2009 when the House, then Democratic-controlled, narrowly passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. That bill would have created a system to auction off emissions permits with the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to about 80 percent below their 2005 levels by 2050. The Senate never took action on that bill.