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On climate bill, Democrats work to overcome Graham's immigration objections

"It has the broadest support that's ever come together for an energy and climate bill before," Lieberman said, adding he is convinced several business leaders "will be our most effective advocates in convincing the undecided senators to get off the fence" in the weeks ahead.

Roberta Combs, president and CEO of Christian Coalition of America, said, "It doesn't make sense to move energy to the back burner in Congress when America is hemorrhaging oil money to nations that don't like us, and when so many families could benefit from jobs if we pursue a made in America energy plan."

Graham said he worried his colleagues were being "overly optimistic" in describing business support for the measure, and he lashed out at the decision by anonymous administration officials to tell Fox News earlier this month that they opposed the idea of a fee on the transport sector linked to the price of carbon, which quickly became labeled a gas tax. "I should have walked when I saw that story," he said.

An administration official, who asked not to be identified, said the White House and Graham simply had a difference of opinion on the issue, in part because the administration did not see winning the support of oil companies "as the holy grail" of climate and energy legislation.

After Graham's announcement, conservatives were quick to accuse him of seeking what Patrick Creighton of the conservative Institute for Energy Research called "an easy way out of being part of one of the most economically devastating pieces of legislation this country has ever seen, no more, no less."

But Graham, the one Republican who has been willing to work with Democrats on not only climate change but immigration and the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo, just appears to be trying to limit the number of fronts on which he is confronting his party's leadership. And Kerry, who has had 270 individual meetings and phone calls with his Senate colleagues on the climate and energy bill, said Sunday he believes the key players can get past the "minor hiccup" of the latest climate skirmish.

"We're going to get this done," Kerry said, adding that administration officials "want this done, and they want it done next. But they also want to see we've got something real."

"I think we're on a good track," he said, adding that what might seem like inside deals to outsiders is just the legislative process. "You have to have meetings, you have to sit in the room and listen to them. That's representative democracy."

To do that, said the League of Conservation Voters' Gene Karpinski, the power brokers on Capitol Hill and in the White House will need to have a few more closed-door meetings.

"All of this needs to be resolved on the highest levels to bring it back together, which we see as both doable and necessary," Karpinski said.

Staff writer Steven Mufson contributed to this report.

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