How much does the average voter in this mid-term election know about the Senate? Mostly that they’re sick of congressional gridlock and all those nasty political ads on their TVs.
Most voters have no idea how or why all that is happening or what role the Senate plays in the November 4, 2014 polls, much less what that has to do with climate change.
Climate-based election campaigns have hit a wall of voter apathy so solid that Big Green money has switched to issues such as abortion and the economy, which clouds the question.
Many voters vaguely recall that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) made an infamous hit against the coal industry in a TV clip claiming “Coal will kill you” and he remains a high-profile sermonizer of the mantra, “Climate change is real and it’s happening all around us right now.”
But why Harry Reid? Why does he get TV time like that, or even at all? Most voters in the 2014 midterm elections couldn’t tell you. Even the mainstream media are worried enough about our abundant ignorance that ABC News ran an educational item, “5 Simple Questions About the Midterm Elections Answered.” The word “simple” in that title says we need a civics lesson.
ABC News spent four of those answers explaining that elections for members of Congress happen every two years, and that presidential elections happen every four years, so there will be an election in the middle of the president’s four-year term, which is why they’re called mid-term elections.
But, to their credit, ABC News added, “The real fight to watch on November 4 is whether the Senate changes hands from the Democrats to the Republicans. Democrats are trying to hold control and the GOP wants to wrest it from them.” If the GOP can win only six seats from the Dems, they get control.
But what does “control” mean in Congress, and why is it so important? It means that the political party with the most members in the House of Representatives gets to select the Speaker of the House and likewise in the Senate with the Majority Leader – among the most powerful offices in America. Senate Democrats see the midterm elections as a death match to hold control and the GOP is determined to wrest it from them, and that could end the political power of climate change advocates.
If the Republicans win control of the Senate, and the House remains Republican, all of President Obama’s climate program could be stopped. His executive orders could be denied appropriations for enforcement and his regulatory monstrosities could be de-funded. In short, with public concern over climate change vanishing, Congress could go around Obama as much as he goes around them.
It is true that Obama could veto any bill a Republican Congress might pass, but with a lame duck president, the main problem is blocking presidential excesses, not passing new laws. And if Obama does veto popular bills, he won’t be doing Democratic 2016 presidential hopefuls any favor.
The Senate is thus the key to turning climate change into a public debate instead of its current status as a mean and spiteful dictatorial leviathan. The majority party of the Senate, like the House, makes all the rules and passes all legislation that it supports and blocks all that it opposes.
But the Senate has special powers the House does not: it rules over the confirmation
or rejection of every key administration nominee and every federal court nominee, including Supreme Court justices. A Republican Senate from 2015 to 2017 is the only bulwark against a left-leaning Supreme Court.
Perhaps the least appreciated power of being the majority party is this: party members become the chairman of every committee and subcommittee in the chamber. With a GOP Senate the committee chairman of every committee in Congress would be a Republican. The committee chairman is a person of immense power who gets to decide which bills live and die, which bills get a hearing, and which issues get influential public attention, yet almost no average American could name a single one.
That’s what control of the Senate has to do with climate change – and just about everything else in public policy.