A day after bipartisan support for an energy and climate change bill appeared to crumble, a Senate sponsor said Sunday he was optimistic the coalition would regroup and lawmakers would consider the measure this year.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he was encouraged after talking to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who were at odds over Reid's suggestion that an immigration overhaul might be considered ahead of the energy bill.
Lieberman said Reid pledged to bring the energy bill to the full Senate as soon as possible this year. In a separate conversation, according to Lieberman, Graham reiterated his support for the energy bill once it's no longer tangled up with immigration legislation.
"Now I'm encouraged," Lieberman said. Asked when the energy bill might advance, he said, "Sometime soon, as soon as we can get Lindsey on board."
Graham has threatened to withhold his support for the energy bill if Senate Democrats opt to deal first with immigration. He accused Reid of a "cynical political ploy" in suggesting the change, which comes as Reid faces a difficult re-election in heavily Hispanic Nevada and immigration legislation is a priority for Hispanics.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who worked with Graham and Lieberman on the energy bill, has postponed releasing the legislation on Monday in light of the dispute over what Reid may do with the immigration bill.
Reid's spokesman Jim Manley, discussing the energy bill, said Sunday that Reid "fully plans to bring the final product to the floor, but it's going to need broad bipartisan support."
Lieberman said it is unlikely immigration legislation would advance without Graham's support. Democrats are one vote shy of the 60 votes needed to push a bill toward a final vote. United opposition from Republicans would stop the bill from going that far.
Senators appearing on the Sunday television news shows disagreed about whether immigration should be on the Senate agenda this year and whether the energy bill could be handled before the end of the year if immigration legislation were considered first.
"I just don't think this is the right time to take up this issue with the border security problems, the drug wars going on across the border, 10 percent unemployment," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "It just strikes me that our time would be better spent at the federal level on other issues."
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he believes whichever legislation is ready first will be dealt with first in the Senate. However, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said he thought neither bill should be taken up because of the time needed for financial regulation legislation and for the annual budget bills.
McConnell appeared on "Fox News Sunday" while Menendez and Chambliss spoke on CNN's "State of the Union."
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