Cornyn added that Grahams bipartisan stamp would not stop him from branding the issue a job-killer.
I just hope Sen. Graham doesnt provide cover for a really bad idea, he said.
During House passage of a cap-and-trade bill last year, Republicans successfully tarred the measure as a de facto energy tax; the criticism many House Democrats weathered last summer over their votes for the bill have made Senate Democrats doubly cautious about embarking on a similar path.
Graham said that he understands the political pressures facing his party this year but that the bill he is currently working on with Lieberman and Kerry would not create a cap-and-trade system of limiting carbon emissions. It would instead treat each energy sector differently, he said.
If this is about denying the other side a victory, then were all going to lose up here, because people are pretty sick of that, Graham said.
He acknowledged, however, that several pieces must fall into place in order for the effort to succeed, including broad buy-in from business groups and environmentalists alike.
Its got to be good business politics, its got to be good job creation and its got to be seen by the American public as helping the economy, not hurting it, Graham said.
Reid has given Kerry until the Easter recess to come up with a bill, even though sources said the Majority Leader is dubious of bringing up such a political lightning rod in a crucial election year.
Boxer, who supports Kerrys efforts, said Reid has only promised to bring up a climate change measure if supporters can secure a filibuster-proof vote for it.
If we get 60 votes for it, well take it up. If we dont, we cant. Thats my understanding with Sen. Reid, Boxer said last week. So thats going to be the goal, to get to 60. ... If we dont, there would be no point.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley did not dispute Kerrys assertion that his boss is determined to act this year on climate change, but he noted that the Senate schedule is pretty full already.
We have a lot on our plate, Manley said. We have to finish reforming health insurance and Wall Street, and also must help bring Americans out of unemployment. But we are not so busy that we cant find the time to address comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
Democratic sources said Grahams involvement was crucial to getting a bill, but that he is so far the only Republican who is negotiating with Kerry. Plus, many centrist Democrats and those from coal-producing states remain skeptical of any global warming proposal.
The problem is not how many Republicans you pick up, its how many Democrats you lose, one senior Senate Democratic aide said.
Indeed, liberal Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) last week introduced a bill to force a two-year delay on any Environmental Protection Agency rules regulating carbon emissions from power plants.
Meanwhile, moderate Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said that while he is keeping an open mind about the new Kerry bill, it seems to be a hard sell in my state to try to get that done this year.