Senators press bill without Graham

Kerry, Lieberman have climate legislation ready

By Frederic J. Frommer and Matthew Daly
Associated Press / May 8, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Senators John F. Kerry and Joe Lieberman, architects of a long-delayed energy and climate change bill, said they will officially unveil the proposal Wednesday without their chief Republican partner, Lindsey Graham.

For the past six months, the three senators have been cobbling together the bill after dozens of meetings with environmental groups, business interests, and the White House. Late last month, however, Graham said he was unwilling to continue after Senate Democratic leaders said they hoped to push through immigration legislation at the same time as working on climate change. Now, anger from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would make it impossible to reach a bipartisan deal on the bill, he said yesterday.

“When it comes to our nation’s policy on energy independence and pollution control, I don’t believe any American finds the status quo acceptable,’’ Graham said, adding, “I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future. But there are not nearly 60 votes today, and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.’’

Sixty votes are required in the 100-member Senate to overcome a filibuster.

Kerry and Lieberman remained committed to seeking passage of the bill, saying the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could help frame their argument that change is needed.

“We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last [few] weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem, which threatens our economy, our security and our environment,’’ they said.

They cited a growing and unprecedented bipartisan coalition from the business, national security, faith, and environmental communities in support of the legislation.

“We look forward to . . . passing the legislation with the support of Senator Graham and other Republicans, Democrats and independents this year,’’ they said. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama remains committed to the energy bill.

“We’re also at a time of the year in which gas prices traditionally go up, which I think will be a very public impetus for getting an energy bill done,’’ Gibbs said. “I know there are a lot of people that have worked long and hard on this that don’t want to see the great progress that’s been made walked away from.’’

The proposal, which had been set to be released last month before Graham expressed his doubts, seeks to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

To win over Republicans, the bill calls for expansion of offshore drilling, which some Democrats have said they now oppose because of the Gulf spill.

“Some believe the oil spill has enhanced the chances energy legislation will succeed. I do not share their view,’’ Graham said. While he respects the positions of Democrats who don’t want to see more offshore drilling, he said he still believes that the United States needs to become energy independent.

Material from The Washington Post was used in this report.