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Another Republican Breathes Life Into Climate Bill

It’s hard to dispute the game-changing nature of the joint New York Times op-ed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) in favor of climate legislation this past weekend, which brought the chances of a truly bipartisan bill from near zero to, well, somewhere much higher. Not only would Graham’s support mean another key vote for legislation; it would also provide cover for moderate Republicans and Democrats to get on board.

Today we’re already seeing some evidence of that. The office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has issued a press release that moves her from the “doubtful” column to something approaching “likely” territory:

Murkowski also noted that she hoped the framework for climate policy laid out by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., would mark a turning point in the climate debate.

“They wrote a column, not a bill, and I do believe it could be improved. But in my opinion, the framework they laid out in those 1,000 words is already better than the policies it took the House 1,400 pages to impose,” Murkowski said.

To be clear, neither Graham nor Murkowski has committed to supporting climate legislation. Far from it. But let’s remember that these aren’t mushy moderates; they represent two of the reddest states in the country. In July, political handicapping guru Nate Silver put Murkowski’s chances of backing a climate bill at 2.37 percent and Graham’s at 0.39 percent — far behind fellow Republicans Olympia Snowe (Maine — 55 percent), Susan Collins (Maine — 49 percent), Charles Grassley (Iowa — 7 percent) and several others.

These developments have climate policy expert Joe Romm feeling pretty optimistic. He writes:

The Kerry-Graham deal certainly puts [Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio)] in the “gettable” column. And as the bill becomes more genuinely bipartisan, then Senators like Lugar (R-IN) become gettable too. I think the final bill will [have] 5 or more Rs and 62 or more total votes.

Of course, it only takes a few bad town hall experiences for lawmakers to change their minds.

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