Speeches

06.13.17

Time to Wake Up: Fall is Coming

Mr. President, however loud, persistent, and powerful the climate denial operation has been, we have to remember that it has always been built on lies. It is a huge fortress of lies stacked upon lies. Lies about the science, lies about the scientists, lies about doubt, lies about costs, lies through phony front groups, and lies about where the money comes from and who is pulling the strings. This fortress of lies protects a subsidy to the fossil fuel industry that the International Monetary Fu… Continue Reading


06.07.17

Time to Wake Up: May Day Parade

Mr. President, Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is a decision that may prove to be one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our Nation's history. There is no denying the mounting threat of climate change. We observe rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. Yet the President cast aside a historic global agreement forged through American leadership. Americans now ask what to do next. F… Continue Reading


06.07.17

Gaspee Days 2017

Madam President, I come to the Senate floor every year around this time to discuss an important incident in the history of Rhode Island largely overlooked in the history books, certainly overlooked in consequence to its importance. We have to understand that we Rhode Islanders have always had a pretty fierce independent streak. The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded by Roger Williams and others fleeing the harsh ideological conformity of the Massachusetts theocracy. O… Continue Reading


05.23.17

Time to Wake Up: The Engine for Pruitt's Advancement

Mr. President, I am here to discuss what you might call the Scott Pruitt philosophy of environmental regulation. In a recent interview, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency expressed his view that the EPA should "simply pass regulations that provide fairness and equity and allow utilities to make decisions based upon stability, cost, and security to the consumers that they serve." Did we notice anything missing in that assertion of what EPA's role should be? How about no men… Continue Reading


05.16.17

Time to Wake Up: Climate denial was the original fake news

Mr. President, as we know here in Washington, politics is a battlefield as much as it is a debating society. On this battlefield, a new form of political weapon has emerged, one for which the American political system was not well prepared. As Democrats, I can say from our side, we were virtually blind to this weapon in the last election. For my 167th "Time to Wake Up" speech, I am here to discuss this new political weapon: systematic fake news. Fake news does not just fall like rain from heave… Continue Reading


05.10.17

Time to Wake Up: RI Archipelago

Mr. President, it is perhaps a providential happenstance that I should be giving this particular speech while the Senator from Louisiana is presiding because we are both from coastal States. I am sure he will find things that are familiar in my Rhode Island remarks, particularly given that his Governor has declared the Louisiana coast a state of emergency due to sea level rise. As the Presiding Officer knows, one place where the effects of climate change are most evident is in our oceans and al… Continue Reading


05.03.17

Time to Wake Up: Moving on Climate Change Without Trump

Mr. President, the last two weekends have surged with political activism. Around the world, millions of people took to the streets to stand up for science and to call attention to the global crisis of climate change. This past weekend, my wife and I marched here in Washington, alongside 200,000 people from across our country in the People's Climate March. I joined faculty and students from Rhode Island's Greene School, an environmental charter school named after the great Nathanael Greene. The … Continue Reading


04.20.17

Time to Wake Up: Climate Change and Agriculture

Mr. President, on Monday night, this chamber confirmed former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be President Trump's Secretary of Agriculture. I am here for my 164th "Time to Wake Up" speech to urge Secretary Perdue to listen to his agency, to scientific researchers in farm states across the country, to our major food and agricultural producers, and to farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and foresters about the serious and growing effects of climate change. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels i… Continue Reading


04.05.17

Time to Wake Up: President Trump's Climate Executive Order and Polling

Mr. President, this is my 163rd "Time to Wake Up" speech. I persist in the hope that one day these little water drops will ultimately cut through the stone of fossil fuel intransigence. Last week our new President, Donald Trump, announced an Executive order aiming to wipe out many of his predecessors' climate change measures. So I would like to take some time this evening to examine his Executive order--which is, in many respects, a sham--and show how very far away it is from the actual wishes o… Continue Reading


03.29.17

Whitehouse remarks on urgent need to invest in infrastructure

Mr. President, with the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act defeated, President Trump says he wants to move beyond health care to focus on other priorities. One area he's often highlighted is investing in our nation's crumbling infrastructure, a priority I share and something I'll discuss today. Every kid dreads having to bring home a bad report card. My kids knew that if their grades dropped off, we'd be having a serious talk. Every four years, the American Society of Civil E… Continue Reading


03.21.17

Time to Wake Up: Melting Glaciers and the Warming Arctic

Mr. President, back in 2015, on a trip to Ohio, I met Ellen Mosley-Thompson and Lonnie Thompson. They've been married 45 years-which is about as long as they've been research partners. Ellen and Lonnie are glaciologists who run the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at the Ohio State University. They have spent their lives studying the world's glaciers, leading expeditions all over the planet, to incredible places-the North Pole, the South Pole, the Greenland icecap, the high mountains of… Continue Reading


03.14.17

Time to Wake Up: The Effects of Climate Change on our National Security

Mr. President, I rise today for my 160th time to wake up speech, this one focused on the security consequences of our failure to deal with carbon emissions and climate change. My remarks at the Munich Security Conference pointed out that climate change presents several orders of security risk to society. The first order of security risk is physical damage: damage that science and our senses are already perceiving and measuring in our atmosphere, oceans and environment. This security risk-r… Continue Reading


03.02.17

Time to Wake Up: It's Basic Chemistry

Mr. President, this is my 159th "Time To Wake Up" speech. In giving these speeches, I've realized some of my colleagues seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the basic understanding of climate change. Some of President Trump's cabinet nominees seem to have the same problem. They say the scientific community is split on the issue. (It's not.) They say the climate's always been changing. (Not like this, it hasn't.) They say we can't trust projections and complex computer m… Continue Reading


03.01.17

Time to Wake Up: Financial Effects of Climate Change

Mr. President, I am here today for the 158th time to ask this Chamber to wake up to the mounting evidence of climate change. The sad truth is that, in Congress anyway, this issue has turned starkly partisan thanks to a torrent of dark political money that the fossil fuel industry uses to both threaten and reward the Republican Party in a dirty, dark money game of "stick and carrot." Republicans in Congress ignore climate change for the simple reason that the fossil fuel industry has become thei… Continue Reading


02.13.17

Time to Wake Up: Will the new Treasury Secretary show common sense on climate change?

Mr. President, I, too, will be voting no on the candidacy of Mr. Mnuchin to become Secretary of the Treasury. Rhode Island got hit so hard by the mortgage meltdown that Wall Street created. Frankly, I can never forget the Rhode Islanders who lost their homes in the course of that debacle. We were able to help some of them in my office. As the Presiding Officer knows, when you come to the Senate, you put together a constituent office, and your constituent people work on usual constituent busine… Continue Reading


02.06.17

Whitehouse on Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos

Mr. President, I wish to add a few Rhode Island voices to the voice of the Senator from Minnesota. By the way, I am not cherry-picking my correspondence to find the rare letters in opposition to this nominee. We have had an unprecedented avalanche of opposition to this nominee. It is running well more than 100 to 1 against her, and it is people from all walks of life. Here is a letter from William, a 12th grader in Pawtucket, RI. William took the trouble to write to me. Let me start with the to… Continue Reading


02.01.17

Time to Wake Up: Trump's Nominees

Mr. President, we are gathered here this evening to seek to defend against the Congressional Review Act effort to overturn the clean stream protection rule. It is interesting that this first Congressional Review Act measure that we are taking up should be one that puts money into the pockets of the fossil fuel industry and lifts their obligation to clean up public streams that they have ruined with their pollution. As I have been in the Senate, I am in my second term, and I am more than halfway… Continue Reading


01.24.17

Introduction of the CHOICE Act

Mr. President, Republicans in Congress have been on the warpath for a long time to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In fact, in this new Congress, their first order of business has been to pave the way for dismantling this law. Despite the fact that 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage thanks to this law, despite people no longer being denied coverage for preexisting conditions, despite big savings in health care costs, and despite everyone with insurance being able to acces… Continue Reading


01.24.17

Time to Wake Up: What is Scott Pruitt Hiding?

Mr. President, what is Scott Pruitt hiding? Last week the Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on Trump's nominee to the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, I rise for my 155th "Time to Wake Up" speech with unanswered questions about Mr. Pruitt's fitness for that role. His evasiveness at his hearing signaled nothing good about his ties to the industry he would regulate if confirmed. And the lack of curiosity about these industry ties from my Republican colleagues speaks … Continue Reading


01.17.17

Time to Wake Up: Something Important

Mr. President, my "Time to Wake Up" speeches-this is number 154-sometimes feel like I'm out here banging hopelessly against a tightly locked, barred and soundproofed door. I make them anyway, because at a minimum I want history to know what happened here, when people look back and ask what the hell went wrong with American democracy. But I admit, it can sometimes be discouraging. Last week, however, something important happened. A public servant won a victory against a massive special inter… Continue Reading

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