So they've decided to simply lay out a list of energy "principles" Friday morning _ agreed to by ten Republicans and ten Democrats. But the group is punting on pushing any real legislation before the election.
"They are not going to introduce a bill," said one GOP aide involved in the group.
According to both Democratic and Republican aides directly involved in key meetings Thursday night, the bipartisan coalition's most significant agreement will be to push for drilling on the outer continental shelf, up to 25 miles off-shore, with revenue sharing for each coastal state that asks to "opt in" and allow drilling off their coast. That's a much more aggressive drilling policy than the one passed by the House, which would allow drilling 50 miles off shore, with no oil revenue sharing for states.
The Gang of 20 agreement would also include billions for conservation, alternative energy and new auto technologies.
But at this point, the Senate energy gang, which at one point this summer seemed like the best hope for a real breakthrough on the oil crisis, is simply laying out "principles" instead of legislation that could pass Congress.
"It's good policy, but the politics aren't there," said one Republican aide involved with the gang.
A Democratic aide who works for one of the senators in the group told Politico on Thursday night: "The environment outside the group is too political right now and they don't want their hard work torn apart by the partisans. They want to stay above the fray and will introduce the bill after Congress is through the silly season."
Both Democratic and Republican aides involved with the gang did not want to go on the record Thursday night because the senators involved want to save the news about their agreement until Friday. But those involved with the group say that leaders on both sides _ environmentalists on the left and anti-tax conservatives on the right _ were not ready to embrace a bipartisan energy deal so close to the election.
That means the gang will have to wait until a lame duck session of Congress, when the sense of urgency will be gone.