The Skywriter

DC Hill Update 2/16: Extreme weather shuts down Capitol Hill


DC Hill Update 2/16: Extreme weather shuts down Capitol Hill

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Everything in the nation's capital took a backseat to two major snowstorms that dumped over 32 inches of snow on DC last week. Congress fell behind and climate deniers took advantage of the storm to stir up baseless controversy. Momentum is still building behind a much-anticipated Senate jobs bill, but members of Congress are home this week for the President's Day Recess, and won't take it up until February 22. Throughout this week 1Sky organizers and volunteers will be out in force talking face-to-face with their representatives and senators about protecting the Clean Air Act and passing a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year.

1. Snowstorms break records, stall progress on the Hill

Washington, DC received over 32 inches of snow over the past week, breaking records, shutting down much of the city, and giving us a taste of the impacts of new weather patterns and extreme weather events driven by climate change. All House votes were canceled for the entire week; the Senate was closed on Wednesday, with limited business taking place Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Climate deniers are using the storm to perpetuate myths about global warming and the fate of the climate bill. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) built an igloo with his family and called it "Al Gore's New Home."

The Virginia GOP is using the snowstorm as an opportunity to launch attack ads against Reps who voted for the House-sponsored climate bill. Even Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who generally accepts climate science and supports climate legislation, suggested this week that the storm, "makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments."

Those familiar with climate science however, have noted that the extreme amount of moisture in last weeks' storms is in fact directly in line with predictions made by climate scientists. Repower America made sure its members saw Jon Stewart's comical analysis of how the storm relates to climate change.

2. Senate Jobs Bill Delayed, Vote Postponed Until After Recess

The first of at least two jobs bills was expected to be introduced in the Senate early last week, and passed before the recess, but was delayed due to the snowstorms as well as difficulties in resolving disagreements among key senators. On Thursday, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) unveiled a long-awaited jobs bill with a price tag of $85 billion (subs. req'd). The bill included a number of energy tax credits for biofuels, energy-efficient home improvements, and other measures as well as an extension of the current highway and transit law.

Just hours after the bill was introduced, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) quickly asserted (to the surprise of many) that he would scale it back to simpler $15 billion version without most of the energy-related provisions. The bill will now be considered after the President's Day Recess, but no deadline has been set for its passage. The New York Times editorial board published this harsh critique of the jobs bill and process surrounding it.

3. Climate Bill Still On the Table

Key players in the Senate released additional statements last week reaffirming that they are moving forward on a bill. In response to claims in the media and from colleagues about climate legislation being "buried under record snowfall," Senator John Kerry (D-MA) asserted Wednesday that anyone who says climate legislation is dead for the year is "dead wrong."

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and others are speculating about where the newly-elected Scott Brown (R-MA) will stand on climate legislation, especially in light of a new poll (PDF) showing that a majority of Brown's supporters in the special election favor comprehensive climate legislation, while overall Massachusetts voters said that energy independence should be Brown's top legislative priority.

On Thursday, the Obama administration released its annual economic report, which included an extensive chapter on the economic benefits of comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

1Sky organizers and volunteers will keep the pressure on during this week's congressional recess by showing up at in-state events and showing senators that there is overwhelming public support for a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill this year.

4. Defending The Clean Air Act from House and Senate Attacks

Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) resolution of disapproval aimed at preventing the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is still expected to be brought to the Senate floor next month. The measure only requires 51 votes to pass, and currently has 40 supporters, including 3 democrats.

A number of groups, including several 1Sky allies, are launching ad campaigns in key states calling out senators like Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) who support the "Dirty Air Act."

Three similar attacks in the House are being spearheaded by Representatives Ike Skelton (D-MO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND). Some co-sponsors of these efforts include members who voted in favor of comprehensive climate and energy legislation last June.

Over the recess, 1Sky organizers and volunteers will show members of Congress that it is unacceptable to protect the profits of big polluters like Big Oil and Dirty Coal at the expense of our health and much-needed clean energy jobs.

5. 1Sky Follows Up On Obama Rope Line Debate

Last week, we noted that 1Sky Campaign Director Gillian Caldwell took an opportunistic moment to talk to President Obama on a rope line about “clean coal” and federal priorities. Videotape of the exchange and a blog and follow up letter can be found at the links below.

If you missed it, here is the video of President Obama and Gillian Caldwell talking with a related blog.

And here is the new follow-up 1Sky letter to President Obama which was delivered last week and copied to several members of his Cabinet.

Prepared by Jason Kowalski and Julie Erickson from 1Sky’s policy team. Please direct questions or comments to

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