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Out of Climate Meeting, Democrats Seem to Move to Utility-Only Cap

President Obama and almost two dozen Senators met today about energy and climate legislation, and Democrats conceded on an industry-wide carbon cap in favor of a more limited approach.

Key Senate Democrats offered, during a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and skeptical Republicans on Tuesday, to scale back their ambitious plans to cap greenhouse gases across multiple sectors of the economy.

Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman told reporters after the 90-minute West Wing meeting that Obama held firm in his calls for a price on greenhouse gases. But they said the president acknowledged that he could agree to a more limited climate and energy bill than any the senators had previously drafted.

“We believe we have compromised significantly, and we’re prepared to compromise further,” Kerry said.

Now there’s a battle cry. “Compromise Now, Compromise Tomorrow, Compromise Forever.”

Given that posture, it’s interesting that they didn’t throw out the cap entirely. In fact, what Senate Dems seem to be coalescing around is a utility-only cap. Jeff Bingaman, whose Natural Resources Committee passed an energy-only bill last year which he has consistently promoted, has started to work on a utility-only cap. This is his own initiative, not under direction from Harry Reid, but Bingaman’s shift away from energy-only is significant. And the President, according to the report, insisted on some carbon-pricing scheme.

It didn’t seem they swayed any Republicans to the cause, although Joe Lieberman said that a couple of them responded that they would “keep talking about it.” Talking about it to death, I assume, is the plan.

Whether this meeting helped Democrats find a way forward will get resolved in the next couple days. But Kerry-Lieberman is almost certainly dead, with the utility-only fallback next up.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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