Last night's #Up4Climate speech-a-thon, in which Democrats used witching-hour floor time to talk about the need for action on environmental law, was a uniquely Washingtonian combo of inspiration and cynicism. Absolutely, most Senate Democrats want to pass a climate bill, and absolutely, they fumbled the chance away in 2010 when they failed to come up with a companion to the House's cap-and-trade bill that could survive a filibuster.
But the origins of last night's protest, as Ed O'Keefe reported, were at a fundraiser with Tom Steyer. The billionaire is planning to spend $100 million in 2014 to cancel out the damage of Republican-backing ads, and needs to be convinced not to spend it against vulnerable Democrats like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.* (She appeared on a who-to-target-next quiz on Steyer's site. So far, she has not been targeted in the way Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor was over gun control.)
The protest also boosted Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who was appointed to the state's open Senate seat in a bit of a surprise (Hawaii hadn't sent a white male to the Senate ... well, ever), immediately drawing a primary challenge. Schatz has created a reputation from nothing, taking point on climate and money-in-politics issues, courting progressives at events like the annual Netroots Nation conference.
So: no climate bill. But a nice shine on the reputations of some Senate Democrats.
*Correction, March 11, 2014: This post originally misstated that Tom Steyer plans to spend $100 billion in 2014 to help Democratic congressional candidates.