Murkowski, Sullivan Agree Climate is Changing but Split on Naming Cause

The U.S. Senate spent the week voting on a raft of amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Democrats took the opportunity to force votes on climate change. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is leading the Republican push for Keystone, acknowledged  it put some senators in a bind.

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“Some may suggest these are … hard votes to take,” she said on the Senate floor. “Nobody ever said voting should be easy here in the United States Senate.”

Both Alaska senators voted for an amendment saying climate change is real and not a hoax. The vote was nearly unanimous: 98 to 1.  The rub came on amendments declaring a cause. Murkowski voted for an amendment saying “human activity contributes to climate change.” Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, voted against it. Sullivan believes “the verdict is still out on the human contribution to climate change” and that there’s no scientific consensus, Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said in an email.

The amendment fell one vote shy of the 60 needed for passage.

Both Alaska senators voted no on a slightly different amendment. It declared that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change. That was one adverb too far for Murkowski.

“I would suggest to colleagues that that inclusion of that word is sufficient to merit a ‘no’ vote at this time,” Murkowski said ahead of the vote.

The amendment failed. Murkowski said later the word “significantly” was unclear, because it could mean 5% or 90 percent.

“Why would we even get into a matter of degrees? Let’s just acknowledge that human activity causes impact,” she said.

In the end, though, the only climate amendment to pass was the one recognizing that change is real. Debate on the Keystone bill continues next week.