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Democratic Energy Builds for Energy Bill

What remains unclear is whether Congressional Democrats can successfully engage Republicans on the issue, and whether a truly comprehensive package has legs or whether Democrats will have to settle for a dramatically scaled-down version to secure GOP support. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) helped develop the Kerry-Lieberman bill but backed out just before it was introduced after Reid pledged to bring immigration reform to the floor first. Graham has said that the oil spill in some ways makes passing a bill more challenging because Senators are concerned about how to deal with its offshore drilling provisions. But Democratic aides said they still hope Graham and a few other Republicans will ultimately support a bill if it makes it to the floor.

“It is time that the Republicans decided to work with us to address the many issues confronting the nation, rather than continue their record of obstruction and delay,” said Regan Lachapelle, a spokeswoman for Reid.

A Senate GOP leadership aide said Republicans would be willing to support a clean energy proposal as long as it didn’t include a cap-and-trade provision — a centerpiece of the House Democratic version of energy reform.

“If Democrats want to have a comprehensive energy plan that includes reducing our reliance on oil, but recognizing that we still need some in the shorter term and increasing our reliance on alternative fuels, Republicans would be willing to support that. But we can’t go along with making energy more expensive in the middle of a recession — and that’s what they seem intent on doing with all these energy proposals,” the aide said.

With Reid setting up a meeting of his chairmen this week and a full caucus meeting the following week, energy appears to have officially leapfrogged immigration reform — now seemingly dead.

Reid has given pro-immigration-reform groups a few weeks to find Republican backers, but energy bill backers say it appears he is ready to pivot.

“That’s exactly the clarity that people were looking for,” said the Senate aide pushing the energy bill. “This is the train that’s moving and this is what we are going to be doing this summer. … We didn’t want to pit important legislative goals against each other, but the immigration bill isn’t complete yet and we have a complete package that’s ready to go. … We’re going to fight like hell for this.”

House Democratic aides aren’t particularly optimistic that the Senate will be able to get its act together.

“It’s better late than never,” one leadership aide said.

“If they can take advantage of the current climate and get some sort of compromise bill and wrap it around oil spill response legislation, that would be tremendous,” another aide said.

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