The Senate's Biggest Keystone Amendment Trolls, Ranked

The Senate has spent the last two days voting on whether to attach amendments to a bill that they know will likely never become law.

WASHINGTON - MARCH 16: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) questions witnesses from National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling at a hearing on Capitol Hill on March 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. The commission issued its report shortly before the one year anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill. *** Local Caption *** James Inhofe

Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The Senate just rejected the fourth and most controversial climate change amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill on Thursday, ending this chapter of Democrats attempting to force Republicans to go on the record on man-made climate change.

By a 56 to 42 vote, the Senate blocked Bernie Sanders' amendment—which stated that man-made climate science is real and that it "is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible."

President Obama has already promised to veto the Keystone bill, meaning that voting on the bill and its many amendments is solely about making a political statement. Sanders' amendment—as well as two more from Democrats stating that the Senate agrees 1) that climate change is real and not a hoax, and 2) is real and man-made—arose as a response to Republicans pushing the Keystone bill in the first place. A fourth, GOP, amendment came a response to the first three.

In other words, as several commentators have noted this week, Senators have spent the last few weeks trolling each other. In a game that has no real winners, here's who trolled the hardest. 

1. Senator Roger Wicker

Wicker didn't propose an amendment, but he was the only senator for vote against Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's amendment, which simply asked senators to admit that climate change is real. In a statement to the Clarion Ledger, Wicker's office wrote:

"The Whitehouse amendment is an attempt to stop the construction of the Keystone pipeline using disputed facts. My record is very clear on this issue, and I will not change my position based on a political show vote. I agree with the more than 31,000 American scientists who do not believe the science on this matter is settled."

Even Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who literally wrote the book on climate change being a hoax, realized that voting for Whitehouse's amendment wasn't technically an admission that global warming was caused by human activity, just that climate undergoes variability. But Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, stuck to his guns, reaching peak troll. 

2. Senator Jim Inhofe

Inhofe has a long history of antagonizing environmentalists, from inviting fiction writers to hearings on climate science to his 2012 book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. Whitehouse alluded to that book title, and the quote that inspired it, with his amendment: "It is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax." 

Inhofe, not to be outdone, not only voted for the amendment, but requested to be a co-sponsor. As this video shows, his colleagues were amused—some applauded, and Senator Tom Cotton can be seen smiling behind him. 

3. Senator Bernie Sanders

Of the three climate change amendments from the left, Sanders' was the most "controversial." Here's how Sanders described his amendment on the Senate floor Thursday morning:

I am going to conclude my remarks by simply reading my amendment to make sure that every member of the Senate understands how simple and straightforward and noncontroversial this amendment is. And this is what it says, "It is the sense of Congress that Congress is in agreement with the opinion of virtually the entire worldwide scientific community that climate change is real. Two, that climate change is caused by human activities. Three, that climate change has already caused devastating problems in the United States and around the world. Four, that a brief window of opportunity exists before the United States and the entire planet suffer irreparable harm. And, five, that it is imperative that the United States transform its energy system away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy as rapidly as possible." That's it.

Given that this amendment is quite controversial for a large portion of the Senate, Sanders earns spot number three.

4. Senator Brian Schatz

Schatz's amendment asked Senators to agree that climate change is real and "human activity significantly contributes to climate change." Despite the overwhelming evidence that this is true, Schatz, the Hawaii Democrat, knew full well that his amendment was too controversial to attract Republican votes. Sure enough, GOP Senators blocked it. 

5. Senator John Hoeven

In an effort to provide Republicans with a vote that might benefit them, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven introduced an amendment that agreed that humans contribute to climate change (though not, as Schatz's amendment read, "significantly") but, as NBC News noted, also sided "with the State Department study which 'suggest that significant impacts to most resources are not expected along the proposed Project route' for the Keystone pipeline." That amendment also failed. 

6. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Whitehouse may have lost the trolling battle, but he won the admit-climate-change-is-real war. "I was glad to see almost every Republican, including Senator Inhofe, acknowledge the reality of climate change today, and I hope this means we can move on to discussing not just whether climate change is real, but what we should do about it," the Rhode Island Democrat said in a statement

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