Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, has found a piece of common ground with Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican lawmaker. Political differences didn’t stop the two from teaming up to pass an ocean debris cleanup bill in 2018. Now they’re back for Act 2.

In January, the Senate unanimously passed the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, introduced last year by Sullivan and Whitehouse along with Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ. If it passes the House and becomes law, the measure will boost the federal government’s efforts to work with other countries to halt ocean waste, among other steps.

Sullivan called the new act the “most comprehensive marine debris legislation ever to pass the U.S. Senate.” Sullivan, 55, said his “odd-couple” friendship with Whitehouse, 64, was a “driving force” behind the bills.

Chris Pallister with Gulf of Alaska Keeper in Anchorage, a group working to clean up Alaska coastlines, called the Save Our Seas acts a “major step in the right direction.” Pallister said it’s gratifying to see a Republican and Democrat working together, especially with so much hostility between the parties.

Sullivan and Whitehouse got to know each other while serving on a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee. They sometimes get together for dinner with their wives, Julie Fate Sullivan and Sandra Thornton Whitehouse.

Ocean waste is a frequent topic. But the senators veer into “courteous conversations” about their different takes on climate change, Whitehouse said. He’s politely trying to convince Sullivan to take up climate change as a cause they can work on together, through future legislation.

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Author: Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News
Photo: Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA