Senate: Climate change real, but not people’s fault. But maybe Al Gore’s.

Just when you think Republicans in the U.S. Senate can’t do anything more stupid, they come up with new ways to display their idiocy. And new ways to troll.

And the Republican senator from Illinois blames it all on Al Gore anyway.

The Senate, of course, is gearing up to approve the bill on the Keystone XL pipeline (I’m not going to dignify the silly name of the bill by calling it a “jobs” bill, since the number of permanent jobs is fewer than 50). There were a series of amendments from Democrats, nearly all voted down. For instance, Republicans in the Senate refused to agree that the pipeline should be built of steel produced in the U.S. So much for U.S. jobs.

Then Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) offered an amendment specifying that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” The grand Neanderthal of the climate change deniers, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Stone Age), who has spent years calling global warming a hoax, asked to co-sponsor the bill. Because, he said, the climate is changing, but “the hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant to think that they can change climate.”

With this loophole, Republicans could cast a meaningless “yes” vote. The amendment was approved, 98-1. Yes, even with that bit of tomfoolery, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) couldn’t bring himself to vote in the affirmative.

An amendment by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) saying that climate change is caused by humans failed, of course, 50-49. Among the few GOP votes for Schatz’ amendment were Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both of whom face the voters again in 2016 and could see serious competition for their seats, especially Kirk, running in a primarily Blue state like Illinois.

And Kirk might have set new flip-flopping records. In 2009, he was one of a handful of Republican representatives voting in favor of a climate bill by former Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass., and now a senator). Of course, Kirk was representing a moderate suburban district north of Chicago, so he couldn’t afford to look too wacky. When he ran for Senate in 2010, Kirk reversed himself and renounced his 2009 vote, no doubt scared by Tea Party candidates in the Republican primary. In 2011, he gave this excuse for his flip-flop on global warming in a story in The New York Times: “The consensus behind the climate change bill collapsed and then further deteriorated with the personal and political collapse of Vice President [Al] Gore.”

Aha! It’s all Al Gore’s fault! Of course, we’re not sure exactly what was supposed to be Al Gore’s fault — the collapse of his marriage, perhaps, cast doubt on the facts of global warming somehow? — but heck, it must have sounded good to Kirk at the time. Of all of the excuses to deny climate change, that’s one of the most original.

Just a few weeks ago, Kirk was quoted as saying that climate change isn’t caused by industrial greenhouse gases. And then he switched again and became one of the GOP “yes” votes on the Schatz amendment. He probably knows that sticking his head in the world’s increasingly heated sand on the issue of climate change isn’t going to play well in Illinois as he faces a tough re-election fight; preliminary head-to-head polling with Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who has said she’s only considering a run, shows them even.

Earlier in the day, Republicans did something even stranger. The GOP posted what they called an “enhanced webcast” of President Obama’s State of the Union address online. But the GOP version is nearly a minute shorter than Obama’s actual address. What’s missing? You guessed it — some of Obama’s remarks on climate change.

Obama started to talk about how “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does — 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.”

But Obama’s next remarks are missing from the GOP version: “I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what — I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.”

So many Republicans have been using the “I’m not a scientist” line about climate science and climate change that they figured it was easier to pretend that Obama just hadn’t given that additional evidence. Just like they’ve spent all this time pretending that climate change isn’t real.

Even this “enhanced webcast” of Obama’s SOTU address wasn’t as bad as the changes in the official GOP response. After the new Tea Party darling, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, gave a lukewarm speech, mostly about wearing plastic bread bags on her feet, her speech was translated into Spanish and delivered by a Spanish-speaking GOP representative, Carlos Curbelo of Florida. Although Ernst eschewed any mention of immigration in her speech, Curbelo, speaking to a Latino audience, gave another message altogether. “We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy. In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to collaborate with us to get it done.” In other words, give the usual anti-immigration reform party line when it’s for the wide, white, English-speaking audience, and throw a misleading bone to those listening in Spanish.

When asked about this later, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus mostly babbled, saying it was all Obama’s fault because of his executive actions. So let’s review: The reason Republicans won’t pass common-sense, bipartisan action on immigration that most Americans support is Obama’s fault because he took the same action that other Republican presidents have taken. The reason Republicans won’t take action on climate change is Al Gore’s fault, because Al Gore got a divorce.

Whatever. Next on the Senate’s agenda: A debate on whether the Earth truly revolves around the Sun, and whether the commutative properties of addition and multiplication are real. In other words, if 3 + 2 = 5, does that really mean that 2 + 3 = 5? Jim Inhofe isn’t so sure …

 

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