Lieberman on Gulf Spill: “Accidents Happen”

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With oil politics threatening to upend the already fraught Senate climate and energy negotiations, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Tuesday that senators aren’t planning to scrap offshore drilling provisions in the measure.

“There were good reasons for us to put in offshore drilling, and this terrible accident is very rare in drilling,” Lieberman told reporters (via National Journal). “I mean, accidents happen. You learn from them and you try to make sure they don’t happen again.”

Lieberman’s nonchalance about the Gulf spill belies the increasing tensions among Democrats about over how climate and energy legislation should deal with drilling. Three coastal state Democrats have pledged to vote against anything that expands drilling. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said he would filibuster legislation if he has to, and has pushed John Kerry (D-Mass.), the bill’s lead Democrat, to remove those provisions.

“I have explained my position in no uncertain terms,” Nelson told reporters. He said that he has not gotten any commitment from Kerry that drilling would not be on the table. Yet the issue threatens to further delay the release of a bill that already faces an uncertain path forward in the Senate. The measure remains under wraps after the lone Republican co-author, Lindsey Graham (SC), walked away from negotiations after butting heads with Democratic leadership on the timing of the measure.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) acknowledged in remarks to reporters Tuesday (via The Hill) that the caucus is split on drilling: “The Senate and even our caucus goes in different directions on the drilling question … With the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is front and center and may be a major element in this debate.”

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