The Senate advanced its big Keystone XL pipeline bill Monday night in a 63-32 vote (10 Democrats and one Independent were in favor), opening it up for debate and for additional amendments -- which Senators on both sides of the aisle are invited to propose. And boy, are they taking advantage of that.
President Obama has already threatened to veto the bill when it all but inevitably lands on his desk. But in the meantime, Democrats who oppose the pipeline are taking advantage of the open-amendment process -- which the bill's sponsors say could help it overcome the veto -- to introduce some changes that, strategically, will make it harder for Republicans to endorse it, but that also come off as some pretty clever trolling.
Bernie Sanders emerges as master of the latter: according to the Hill, the Independent Senator plans to offer a non-binding resolution on the scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. The Washington Postgot its hands on a copy of the resolution, in which Senators will be asked to indicate whether or not they agree with the following:
It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community and a growing number of top national security experts, economists, and others that –
(1) climate change is real;
(2) climate change is caused by human activities;
(3) climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world; and
(4) it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
A far cry, in other words, from the standard "I'm not a scientist" non-answer -- they'd instead be going on the record as flat-out climate deniers. “It’s not going to be forgotten by history,” Sanders told the Times. “They’re going to be asking: Did you not hear what the scientific community all over the world is saying — that climate change is the most serious environmental crisis facing this planet?”
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, meanwhile, is proposing an amendment directly pertinent to the issue of piping large volumes of tar sands crude across the country: it would require the companies transporting that oil to pay into a clean-up fund for eventual spills.
Republicans, of course, are planning to introduce amendments of their own. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to lift the ban on exports of U.S. crude oil, while Louisiana Sen. David Vitter said he's considering a number of proposals, which will probably be related to his previous attempts to block attempts at regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
And one Republican aide told the Hill that they're prepared with counter-attacks to Sander's plan to expose climate deniers. They could, the aide said, introduce a measure asserting "that the pipeline is beneficial to the U.S. and helps curb greenhouse emissions." With that first part being extremely questionable and the second definitely counter to science -- and, indeed, logic -- however, that would seem to only further Sander's point.