Lieberman defends drilling measures in climate bill, but Durbin acknowledges differences within caucus

Asked if the spill would cause a change in the bill, Lieberman replied, “I don’t think so, certainly not to lead us to remove it.”

The compromise climate and energy measure he has crafted with Sens. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks MORE (D-Mass.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters MORE (R-S.C.) has been expected to contain measures that promote expanded offshore development.

That includes provisions that would give more coastal states a share of leasing and royalty revenue as inducement to back drilling in federal waters off their shores.

But Lieberman also noted that the measure would provide more protections than current law. Offshore drilling bans covering the Atlantic and Pacific coasts lapsed in 2008, meaning that most federal waters are in theory open for leasing, although much of the eastern Gulf of Mexico remains off-limits.

Lieberman said the bill would block drilling within 75 miles of state shores. He didn’t elaborate, but his comments could be a reference to measures in past outlines of the bill that would give coastal states discretion over the level of leasing off their shores.

One idea reportedly discussed in briefings on the plan several weeks ago would not allow drilling within 35 miles of state shores unless the states agreed to it, while it would be allowed in the 35-75 mile range unless states formally objected.

Kerry held a briefing in the Capitol early Tuesday afternoon for a number of Democratic senators to provide an update on the climate and energy bill, which has not been unveiled.

“The Senate and even our caucus goes in different directions on the drilling question,” Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe GOP defends Trump judicial nominee with no trial experience Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters after he exited the meeting. “With the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is front and center and may be a major element in this debate.”

Durbin suggested the spill has weakened the hand of drilling advocates.

“For the drill-baby-drill crowd, the notion was, man, if we could just drill in ANWR and offshore, we wouldn’t be so dependent on foreign oil and wouldn’t have to waste our time with all these renewable investments,” Durbin said.

“I think there is now a serious question in people’s minds as to whether or not offshore drilling is the kind of investment that is completely easy and fault-free. There is some skepticism about that approach,” he added.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerBarbara Boxer recounts harassment on Capitol Hill: ‘The entire audience started laughing’ 100 years of the Blue Slip courtesy Four more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) said after leaving the briefing that the legislation could include new offshore rig safety measures.

“We are going to need to have, obviously, safer ways to do these things, redundant systems that would kick in in case of failure. I think there is room here to work that in,” she said.

Durbin said he would not be surprised to see offshore safety-related amendments to the Wall Street reform bill that’s on the Senate floor, although he cautioned he was not personally aware of such efforts.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownScott Garrett poses real threat to EXIM Bank, small businesses Class warfare fight erupts over tax bills Senators Hatch, Brown have heated exchange on GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ohio) said he did not believe the Gulf of Mexico spill has had a major effect on the political dynamics of the climate and energy bill.

“I didn’t see a lot of Republicans jumping on board when Obama said we should drill more,” he said, referring to President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak MORE’s late March decision to allow expanded offshore leasing in the future.