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Negotiations Ongoing on Energy

Senate leaders are in the midst of extensive negotiations over how to proceed on an oil speculation bill that lawmakers hope will ease the high gasoline prices and pave the way forward on several proposals.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that he has been speaking with his Republican counterpart, GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), about how to proceed on the Democratic bill, sponsored by Durbin and other members of the Democratic leadership.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Thursday afternoon that he hoped lawmakers could bypass a procedural vote to consider the bill and instead go directly to the speculation measure.

That could only come if, as Durbin indicated, Republicans agreed to offer a speculation bill of their own alongside the Democratic bill dealing with speculation in the oil futures market. This arrangement, which would require 60 votes on both bills, would allow other measures that permit domestic oil drilling to follow.

Yet to be determined is what other proposals would be a part of an agreement, according to one Democratic aide. Democrats want to begin with market speculation, but are open to considering a drilling component.

But opening new areas to oil exploration is not being well received by Democrats, said the aide.

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