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Senate trio to pursue still more climate policy talks

From left, Sens. John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham at a news conference to discuss a new track of climate bill talks.
From left, Sens. John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham at a news conference to discuss a new track of climate bill talks. (Harry Hamburg/associated Press)

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By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Even before a Senate committee could begin marking up the "Kerry-Boxer" climate bill, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) announced Wednesday a separate track of negotiations over climate policy that makes his original bill look somewhat irrelevant.

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Kerry said he, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) would work with business groups and the White House and seek a compromise that could get 60 votes in the Senate.

The three said these negotiations would be separate from the work that Senate committees are doing on climate legislation -- including the markup that the Environment and Public Works Committee was supposed to begin Tuesday.

Republican committee members, demanding more Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the bill's impacts, are boycotting the markup, so progress has stalled. Late Wednesday, several sources said that committee Democrats were likely to sidestep the boycott on Thursday by passing the bill without amendments.

Such a move by the panel's chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), would not require the presence of two minority members, as is traditionally required.

Kerry said his group was not circumventing the committee's process.

"We're going to build on it," he said.

The idea that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) would meld various climate proposals into one was not a new one: With six committees working on related bills, Democrats had long said that somebody would have to stitch them all together.

But Kerry's announcement was an early, and stark, signal that the committee bills would not be the only things shaping the final product.

The three senators offered few details about the elements they considered nonnegotiable: Graham said the bill should protect the climate but also allow for more offshore drilling, an expansion of nuclear energy and an emphasis on "clean coal" technology. Asked whether the group was committed to a "cap and trade" scheme, like the one used to reduce pollution in a bill passed by the House, Lieberman said yes, but noted that the scheme had "a lot of moving parts you could negotiate on."

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