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Senators optimistic on energy bill but sticking points remain

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After meeting with President Obama, Republican senators said there's a path for a bipartisan clean-energy bill this year, but the major fault line remains as Democrats said they still want any legislation to set strict controls on greenhouse gas emissions.

The Republicans said they were willing to work with Democrats on a scaled-down bill that would boost energy research and development and emphasize nuclear power so long as the majority took the idea of a carbon-pricing scheme -- which they have dubbed a "national energy tax" -- off the table.

"As long as we take a national energy tax off the table, there's no reason we can't have clean-energy legislation," Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander told reporters.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, said the meeting was "excellent" and that there was more common ground than disagreement.

But Democratic senators, saying they were willing to seek a compromise, said Mr. Obama was firm when it came to putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions to curb pollution and combat global warming -- raising questions about how a compromise could be achieved.

"The president was very clear about putting a price on carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions," said Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who has been working on energy legislation.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kerry said he and co-author Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Independent, are "prepared to scale back the reach of our legislation in order to try to find that place of compromise."

Mr. Lieberman said some Republicans who have been publicly reluctant about the idea of pricing carbon said in the meeting that they would be willing to discuss "limited forms of doing that in this bill," though he didn't elaborate and no Republicans mentioned such an idea.

To be sure, the Kerry-Lieberman bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, particularly in an election year and during a recession.

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About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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