Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the climate debate, which had its own Twitter hashtag, #Up4Climate, had drawn interest from around the nation and the world. Democrats received two separate petitions urging them to act, with a total of about 100,000 signatures, Boxer said.
"The American people are listening," Boxer said. "They care." She added that the event should "wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change."
Boxer and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., lead the recently launched Senate Climate Action Task Force, which organized the session.
Whitehouse said the session was needed to highlight obstacles to climate legislation, including ads financed by Charles and David Koch, conservative activists who have spent $15 million on Senate races, mostly criticizing Democrats over Obamacare. The Koch brothers, whose interests include oil, chemicals, textiles and paper, have also spent millions on ads critical of action against climate change.
Whitehouse conceded that lawmakers do not have the 60 votes needed to act on the matter, even in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but said the speeches could help change the dynamic.
The episode followed overnight speeches last year by Republicans Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas. Paul criticized U.S. drone policy, while Cruz pushed to take money away from the new health care law.
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