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Climate Trio Woos Senate Moderates

They already have a liberal, a conservative and a wild card on board; now the tripartisan Senate group crafting climate legislation is trying to fill the spaces in between.

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are expected to soon release further details of their cap-and-trade-less climate bill, possibly as soon as tomorrow. And Kate Sheppard reports that moderates seem to be warming to the legislation.

“There were some interesting things that were discussed in there and like everything else in the United States Senate, the devil is in the details,” [GOP Sen. George] Voinovich told reporters after the meeting. He also noted that without final language, it’s still hard to say whether he could endorse it. “There is more meat that has got to be put on the bones.” [Dem Sen. Max] Baucus called the new effort “refreshing,” while [Dem Sen. Debbie] Stabenow also showed enthusiasm.

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, who has supported an approach in which the majority of proceeds from the sale of carbon permits are returned to taxpayers in the form of a dividend, told Greenwire: “I think all of those things are very positive steps and give me the sense that people here in Congress are getting the message that the American people want us to be transparent about all things we do, including cap and trade.

What’s noteworthy here is that the trio is aiming to line up 60 votes *before *introducing the legislation; Sheppard writes that “the anticipation among bill-watchers is that they won’t release the legislation until they’ve got 60 senators signed on.” This stands in pretty sharp contrast to the process up to this point. In the House, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) drafted a relatively aggressive bill that had no real chance of passing in its original form. Only after coal and farm interests whittled it down with a series of compromises and amendments was it able to squeak by.

Likewise in the Senate: Kerry and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced an even more aggressive bill than the one passed by the House, knowing full well that it couldn’t get 60 votes. But unlike in the House, the compromise process never really got off the ground — hence the recent decision by Kerry to abandon that bill and work with Graham and Lieberman to start from scratch.

This time around, they’re employing a markedly different strategy that will yield a markedly different bill. And the biggest difference could be that the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill has a real shot at passing.

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