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Senate Democrats Now More Bullish on Climate Bill

Senate Democrats said Thursday that strong momentum is building within the caucus to tackle energy reform this year — but with few specifics detailed after a closed-door caucus meeting, a path forward remains unclear.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) described the meeting as “more a ‘why I think this is important’ discussion” among caucus members.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats and is the co-sponsor of sweeping energy legislation, said he noticed “a confidence that if we get together and lead, we can get this done.”

“There was a powerful unity in the caucus,” Lieberman added. “And I have more confidence than I have in the past that we’re going to be able to pass a strong, comprehensive clean energy bill that makes polluters pay.”

But when asked what a bill might include, neither Member offered details. They maintained they wanted to push a proposal to the floor next month, and that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would be tasked with harmonizing the caucus and the dueling bills into one package that could win the support of 60 Senators.

“We’re going to write a bill that can pass the Senate,” Reid said after the Democrats’ meeting. “My caucus is ready to get to work, but we need the cooperation of brave Republicans.”

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who negotiated with Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on climate change legislation, which Graham dropped and has since criticized, also called on GOPers to join the effort.

“We’re convinced that we can do it,” Kerry said. “We obviously need some Republicans to stand up and be with us, but we’re determined to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate.”

Democrats concerned about the political risks of taking up climate change in an election year were looking forward to seeking guidance at a bipartisan White House meeting this week, which was postponed because of scheduling conflicts. The meeting has yet to be rescheduled, although Reid said Thursday that he was “looking forward” to the gathering.

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