Democrats in the Senate are preparing an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing climate change, an effort that will include climate hearings and a focus on “green” infrastructure and jobs, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday.
The New York Democrat said the chamber was long overdue in addressing climate change, describing it as a threat that “touches virtually every aspect of our economy and involves virtually every aspect of public policy.”
Schumer said he had directed the new chairs of “all relevant committees to begin holding hearings on the climate crisis” to prepare for President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda, which is expected to contain a heavy focus on climate change and low carbon employment.
The Democratic leader made the remarks hours after he and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a power-sharing agreement, formalizing Democrats’ majority control of the Senate through an organizing resolution.
Until the pair reached that deal Wednesday, committees had still been under Republican control technically. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for example, gave introductory remarks to open a committee vote Wednesday to advance Jennifer Granholm’s nomination for Energy secretary to the Senate floor.
The president’s Cabinet nominees, in their confirmation hearings, have underscored the scientific urgency to rein in emissions. Readouts of calls between foreign leaders and the secretaries of State and Treasury have been peppered with mentions of climate issues, and Biden has zeroed in on the global issue through executive orders during his first two weeks in office.
Climate change was the first issue Schumer broached after announcing that an organizing deal had been reached.
“It is long past time for the Senate to take a leading role in combating the existential threat of our time: climate,” Schumer said from the floor. “As the Biden administration prepares a whole-of-government approach to combating climate change, the Democratic majority will pursue a whole-of-Senate approach as well.”
“Make no mistake: In several different ways, this Democratic majority will compel the Senate to forcefully, relentlessly, and urgently address climate change — beginning with work in all of the relevant committees,” Schumer said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi established the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in the previous Congress.
When they were in the minority, Senate Democrats created an informal climate committee, which Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz led. But it was not a formal committee of Congress.
Spokespersons for Schumer and Schatz have declined or not responded in recent days to questions about whether they will form an official committee this Congress.