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 Kerry2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states When it comes to Colombia, America is in a tough spot 36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures 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 Richard DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes 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 Levy BoxerKamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Billionaire Steyer to push for Dem House push 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 BrownLawmaker interest in NAFTA intensifies amid Trump moves Dem senator shares photo praising LeBron James after Laura Ingraham attacks Trump gets recommendation for steep curbs on imported steel, risking trade war 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 ObamaOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Ex-US ambassador: Mueller is the one who is tough on Russia MORE’s late March decision to allow expanded offshore leasing in the future.