By Robert Romano
"[I]t is the sense of Congress that — (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity contributes to climate change."
That was part of an amendment offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to S.1, legislation that will require the Obama administration to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S.
It drew the support of 59 senators, including 15 Republicans: Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bob Portman (R-Ohio), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.).
Hoeven voted against his own amendment, which fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
Right afterward, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered a second amendment that Democrats preferred. It read: "[I]t is the sense of Congress that — (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate."
That version of the amendment only drew the support of 50 senators, including just 5 Republicans: Alexander, Ayotte, Collins, Graham, and Kirk.
This time it was 10 votes short.
Yet, the two votes — just 21 minutes apart — signify very interesting political positioning by Republicans on the issue.
The position for at least 10 of the Senate Republicans — Corker, Flake, Hatch, Heller, McCain, Murkowski, Paul, Portman, Rounds, and Toomey — is that climate change is real, human activity contributes to it, but it is not significant enough to warrant the current regime of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit carbon emissions.
Or to justify a restrictive climate deal struck between the Obama administration and China — where the U.S. agrees to limit energy consumption long before the Chinese would.
Are Republicans attempting to thread the needle on climate change? Are they succeeding?
Politico ran a story on the series of votes entitled, "Republicans outfox Democrats on climate votes."
But perhaps a better question is why Republicans are even bothering with these symbolic votes?
A Gallup survey before the 2014 midterm elections found that just 19 percent of Republicans found climate change to be either an extremely or very important priority, compared with 61 percent of Democrats.
In the meantime, 91 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats agreed that the economy was a top priority, and 83 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats said the availability of good jobs was.
Point is, almost all voters are concerned about improving the economy and creating jobs, and comparatively far fewer are worried about climate change. Regardless of the degree to which human activities impact the climate, that is a pretty powerful political message.
Which is, posturing on climate change won't make a lick of difference electorally if the economy does not improve. So, get to work.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.