Lieberman, Graham want to 'start again' on energy legislation

2011 could bring some quick indications on whether this year's collapse of energy and climate legislation in the Senate created lasting wounds.



Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) chatted Wednesday about reviving their partnership on energy, Lieberman told E2.





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“It is one of the things we want to work on together next year, start again,” Lieberman said Wednesday in the Capitol. His comments come as President Obama in the new year will seek talks with Republicans on energy.

Lieberman said areas on the table include a “clean-energy standard” for utilities, which Graham is already pushing, and efforts to boost natural gas and nuclear power development.

“It is not going to be as big or comprehensive as the American Power Act,” Lieberman said, referring to the unsuccessful cap-and-trade and energy bill he unveiled with Kerry. “But we can do something here.

“I hope that in January we will ... get to work right away,” Lieberman said.

“I think we have two big things that we can do next year. One is energy independence, and the second is doing something about the long-term debt,” he said.

Graham, in late 2009 and into this year, worked with Lieberman and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on a sweeping climate change and energy bill. But the South Carolina Republican walked away from the talks in April, claiming Democratic plans to move an immigration bill had doomed the effort.

Graham, however, hopes to be a player on energy again in the new Congress, and Lieberman said he sees a chance for collaboration.

The landscape will be very different because greenhouse-gas emissions caps — a pillar of the wider plan on which Graham worked with Kerry and Lieberman — appears to be on ice for years.

Graham also is angry Democrats (with some GOP backing) moved the New START Treaty and the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy through in the lame-duck session.

 Ratification of the New START Treaty received 13 GOP votes.

“Some of the tactics they have used this year have poisoned the well for next year,” he told reporters after the Senate ratified the treaty Wednesday. “We will see how deep and how far it goes.”



“But I hope that we can find a way forward on energy. Because we are going to get $4 a gallon [of] gas again,” he added.



Lieberman, for his part, had a very different analysis of the lame-duck.

He said he’s hopeful recently displayed bipartisanship will carry over, citing the votes for the tax-cut extension passage that was easily approved and the repeal "Don't ask, don't tell," which received eight GOP votes.



“This duck turned out not to be lame. It really was very healthy and productive,” Lieberman said. “I think there have been some great precedents here. None of the things that we did in this lame-duck session ... would have happened without Republican support.”

Lieberman said he recently had a brief talk with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is a member of the GOP leadership team, about collaboration.

“I said I look forward to working with him on energy. We have got to ... clear the table and sort of start a new approach to get something done. He said he would love to do that,” Lieberman said.