Democrats outflanked in Senate on climate change

Working on the Keystone XL oil pipeline bill, Democrats on Wednesday thought they had Republicans right where they wanted them, ready to force votes on a pair of amendments that required GOP Senators to publicly go on the record on whether or not they believed in climate change.

But it didn't work out so cleanly for Democrats.

The first vote came on a plan from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, whose non-binding amendment simply said that it was the "Sense of the Senate" that "climate change is real and not a hoax."

"Forget addressing climate change, Republicans remain politically incapable of even discussing it," said Whitehouse, who routinely goes to the Senate floor to excoriate GOP lawmakers on the issue.

The Whitehouse amendment seemed to be aimed mainly at Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who as the new chairman of the committee that deals with climate change issues, has been a strident critic of those who believe that humans are causing global warming.

Just before the vote, Inhofe drew gasps on the Senate floor, when he said he would not only vote for the Whitehouse Amendment, but also proudly co-sponsor it. Inhofe then swiftly pivoted into an attack on Democrats.

"Climate has always changed and always will," said Inhofe. "The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they are so powerful that they can change climate."

All but one of Inhofe's fellow Republicans then joined him in voting for the "climate change is real and not a hoax" amendment; the only "No" vote was Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).

It was not really the result that Democrats had hoped for.

A little later, most Republicans voted against another amendment that said, "climate change is real and significantly caused by human activity."

49 Republicans voted against that measure - but all could say that they had already voted for another plan which said "climate change is real."

Inhofe: "Elections have consequences"

A few hours before Inhofe found a way to deal with a Democratic attack on climate change, the Oklahoma Republican had taken ceremonial control of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has battled Democrats over global warming.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who had been Chair the past eight years, handed Inhofe the gavel in a small ceremony - and both ended up quoting the same words uttered by Boxer in 2007, when Democrats took charge.

"Elections have consequences," said Boxer then, "and I have the gavel."

To a lot of laughter, Inhofe told Boxer that the photo he has of that moment seems to show Boxer is about ready to smack Inhofe in the head with the gavel, as Inhofe repeated her words - with the tables turned.

"Elections have consequences," Inhofe said with a playful smile, "and I have the gavel."

Probably knowing full well that Inhofe would repeat her words back to her, Boxer had a t-shirt made for Inhofe, with that exact phrase.

In the space of a few hours, the Republican that Democrats hate the most when it comes to climate change had both outfoxed them on the Senate floor and reminded the Obama Administration that a new Climate Sheriff was in town in the Senate.

It certainly wasn't how Democrats would have drawn it up on the Climate Change blackboard.

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