Why the Senate is staying up all night tonight

The Senate will hold an unusual all-nighter Monday. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Senate is burning the midnight oil Monday to draw attention to climate change.

About 28 Democratic senators will take turns talking through the night and into Tuesday morning about the need for legislation to stop climate change.

The talkathon is organized by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a member of a recently organized Climate Action Task Force in the Senate.

“So many Senators coming together for an all-night session shows our commitment to wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change,” Schatz said in a statement.

But despite the fact Democrats control a majority of the Senate, there’s actually no climate change legislation in the chamber for senators to focus on.

A cap-and-trade bill proposing major businesses pay a price on carbon dioxide emissions that passed the House died in the Senate in 2010.

That fact has drawn criticism from conservative pundits like Byron York, of the Washington Examiner, who says Democrats don’t want to risk an election year on possibly controversial legislation.

“So the talkfest on the Senate floor Monday and Tuesday could well be an extended rah-rah for the White House more than a call to any legislative action,” he wrote.

In fact, Democratic senators up for re-election in conservative-leaning states like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina are not participating in tonight’s talkathon.

On the liberal side, it’s possible election-year politics are also playing into tonight’s all-nighter. Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has promised to raise and spend $100 million this election cycle supporting pro-climate change legislation candidates.

Steyer already hosted a $400,000 fundraiser in late February for a committee charged with raising money for Senate Democrats.

But even if this doesn’t lead to any tangible change in climate change, all-night talkathons are rare and tend to draw lots of media attention — remember Ted Cruz’s in October?

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