Boxer Enters the Ring

Now that James Inhofe is down for the count, Barbara Boxer is set to win a few rounds for the environment. By Carmen Johnson

We’re all wondering what’s going to come out of Washington now that a real-life environmentalist is heading the Environment and Public Works committee. Earlier this month, Barbara Boxer, the 66-year-old Democratic Senator from California, replaced James Inhofe (R-OK)—the man who showed us that you don’t need to care about the environment to run the committee.

Boxer is a stark contrast to Inhofe, whose final jab to the environmental community was a hearing on the media and global warming in early December. Inhofe, who still serves as the minority ranking member of the committee, concluded that the media was “alarmist” and grossly exaggerated the problem of global warming.

Boxer says that confronting the threat of global warming is of primary importance as she takes helm of the committee—the group of 18 senators who shape environmental policy. “Nowhere is there a greater threat to future generations than the disastrous effects of global warming. Scientists tell us we must act soon to cut production of greenhouse gases. One of my top priorities will be to spotlight this issue with the help of colleagues from both sides of the aisle with the goal of ultimately bringing legislation to the Senate floor,” said Boxer in a statement.

At the end of the month the committee will begin hearings on global warming, the formal beginning of policymaking. Boxer wants to hear from a variety of voices—her colleagues in Congress, state governments, scientists, faith-based organizations, the business community, the technology community—just to name a few, said Boxer spokesperson Natalie Ravitz.

Boxer trumpets the groundbreaking law signed last August that will reduce her home state’s greenhouse gas emission by 25 percent in the next 20 years. She hopes to usher in California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak at the global warming hearings.

While she will need the support of at least 60 senators to move legislation to a vote, environmentalists are hopeful and excited about Boxer’s new rank.

“She is a great member of the Senate, a true champion for environmental issues,” said Jim Presswood of the National Resources Defense Council. Boxer has consistently received high marks for her work on environmental issues—she voted against the offshore drilling bill passed in early December and helped block oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Boxer has been a member of the committee since she was sworn-in as senator in 1993. “The environment has been a signature issue for Senator Boxer since she first ran for public office more than 30 years ago in Marin County,” says Ravitz. “So, becoming the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate is a dream come true for Senator Boxer,” said Ravitz.

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We have to remember that when it comes to democrats and republicans, there is little tangible difference. We can hope Boxer will make a true difference, but realistically, nothing significant will occur.

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