Catholics among US senators attending all-night climate session

Hoping to wake up the country and their congressional peers about the growing dangers of climate change, U.S. senators plan to stay up all night Monday.

In the marathon session, 28 Senate Democrats, including the organizer Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, plan to debate climate change in an effort to bring greater attention to the issue and increased action out of Congress. Whitehouse said he plans to stay the duration of the night as others take the floor to localize the effects of climate change by discussing its impacts in their home states. A hashtag #Up4Climate will track the talkathon on Twitter.

“I think you're going to see the Senate as a very, very boisterous place on climate," he told the Huffington Post in mid-February. "It's not just going to be me giving my weekly speech.”

Since April 2012, Whitehouse has given his “Time to Wake Up” address each week the Senate has been in session on climate change, what he has called the top issue facing the country.

The idea for the all-night climate session emerged from the Senate Climate Action Task Force, established as part of a bicameral effort in January. In May the committee has planned a rally on climate action, asking people to deliver alarm clocks to members of Congress to wake them up to the issue.

Among the 28 senators expected to participate Monday night are six Catholics: Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Time Kaine of Virginia, and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. All but Murray (85 percent) received a perfect 100 percent rating for their 2013 voting record from the League of Conservation Voters in their annual environmental scorecard.

In June 2008, Durbin, Murray and Cantwell -- the only three Catholics participating in Monday’s midnight climate session in the Senate at the time -- all supported the Climate Security Act, and were among the 48 senators who failed to pass a cloture motion to end a filibuster; the motion required a three-fifths vote, or an additional 12 votes. The bill was viewed as comprehensive legislation aimed at addressing global warming pollution while driving investment in clean energy, and included a controversial cap-and-trade program.

Meanwhile, a petition launched last week on -- the official petitioning forum for the Obama administration -- has asked the president during his scheduled March 27 meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis to speak about “the sacred obligation of people across all faiths to protect God’s creation.”

“Conservation is a moral responsibility. President Obama should share a progress report on his climate action plan and efforts to protect America's Great Outdoors, and invite Pope Francis to visit one of America's national parks and monuments,” the petition read, also suggesting that Obama give Francis a photograph of one of the parks.

Like all “We The People” petitions, it must cross the 100,000 signature threshold before warranting a response from the White House. As of Monday afternoon, 66 people had signed the petition. 

[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]