Kerry, Lieberman to Unveil Climate Bill Next Week

climate change
Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

After months of working on a bill designed to win bipartisan and industry support, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced today they plan to unveil their comprehensive climate change and energy bill next Wednesday.

"We've continued to work with the Senate leadership and the White House, and we believe we've made new progress on the path to 60 votes," they said in a joint statement.

The fate of the climate bill, however, is especially unclear in the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kerry and Lieberman said they are more encouraged today that the bill can pass in the Senate "in part because the last 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."

Their former partner in the climate change talks, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), feels differently.

The current political environment makes it "impossible" to move forward on climate change legislation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said in a statement today.

Graham, Kerry and Lieberman were set last month to unveil their comprehensive bill, which includes a provision to expand offshore drilling and allow states to share the revenues with the federal government.

Graham stopped working with Kerry and Lieberman on the bill after there was talk in the Senate of addressing immigration reform before climate change legislation, a move Graham strongly opposes. He has indicated, however, he could still support the measure.

Yet in wake of the oil spill, the offshore drilling provision could leave Democrats divided over the climate bill.

"When it comes to getting 60 votes for legislation that includes additional oil and gas drilling with revenue sharing, the climb has gotten steeper because of the oil spill," Graham said.

President Obama's adviser on energy and climate change is striking a more optimistic tone.

In one of the most direct connections the Obama administration has made between the oil spill and climate legislation, White House adviser Carol Browner said in a recent interview that the accident gives the bill a better than 50 percent chance of passing this year.

"This accident, this tragedy, is actually heightening people's interest in energy in this country and in wanting a different energy plan," Browner said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital With Al Hunt" airing this weekend.

Yet as Graham suggested, some Democrats are showing renewed resistance to the drilling provisions. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who with other Democrats wants to block plans for new drilling, said earlier this week that any such proposals would be "dead on arrival."

Graham told Climate Wire, however, that the provision must remain in tact if he is going to support the bill.

"I cannot support an emissions control bill that doesn't have an energy independence vision. And safe drilling is part of this vision I have," Graham said.

Earlier this week, Lieberman said the offshore drilling provision should stay in the bill, Politico reports.

"There are good reasons for us to put in offshore drilling. This terrible accident is very rare in drilling," he said. He argued the bill will have more environmental protections than current law, since it prohibits drilling within 75 miles of the coast.

The White House has said the oil spill, which started when an oil rig run by BP exploded on April 20, could change President Obama's plans to consider opening up new waters to offshore drilling. Mr. Obama has insisted, however, that he still supports domestic oil production.

In her interview with Bloomberg, Browner also maintained that domestic oil production must be part of America's comprehensive energy plan.

"What we want to do is make sure that we are producing domestic oil to the best of our ability under the safest conditions," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday, like Browner, said that the oil spill should give new legs to the climate change bill, CBS News Capitol Hill Producer John Nolen reports.

However, he added, "I just think we are all going to back off on offshore drilling until we can get a better handle on how to make it safe."

Meanwhile, liberal groups are ratcheting up the pressure on the Obama administration to back off their support of new drilling. MoveOn.org released an ad this week asking the president to reinstate the ban on new offshore drilling, while the progressive group FireDogLake today released its own ad with the same message. Both use imagery of the oil spill.

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