Lieberman Predicts Support for Climate Bill Despite Losing Key GOP Backer

Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that he and Sen. John Kerry are pressing forward with climate change legislation despite losing the support of a key senator, telling "Fox News Sunday" the bill has a "real shot" at passing. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had been negotiating with Lieberman, I-Conn., and Kerry, D-Mass., for months on the package, backed away Friday citing complaints about lawmakers' attempts to tackle immigration reform at the same time. The BP oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico despite attempts to contain it had also given Graham, several Democrats and Obama administration officials pause about pursuing expanded offshore oil drilling -- something included as part of the climate bill. 

But Lieberman argued Sunday that the Gulf spill could help build the case for the new package, because it reminds the public of the need to "transition our energy system to one that doesn't depend on oil," a broader goal of the climate package despite its inclusion of offshore drilling. 

Lieberman said the offshore drilling component is needed as a transitional measure to keep U.S. oil money inside the United States

"We've got to continue to use our domestic energy resources, because every barrel of oil we get from American offshore or onshore is one barrel less we are paying for to enemies of the United States around the world," Lieberman said. 

"So I think we've got a real shot at this. I think it's about the best thing we could do to create jobs and make America energy independent, clean up some pollution," he said. 

Lieberman predicted a broad base of support for the bill he and Kerry plan to unveil Wednesday. 

But the pursuit of a comprehensive energy bill in the middle of campaign season puts a lot of Democrats in a tough position. Republican campaign strategists have already decided to make the energy package a centerpiece of their efforts and plan to target those Democrats who have expressed support for it. 

The loss of Graham from the potential coalition also means Democrats in the Senate would have to peel off one Republican member, without losing any of their own, to reach a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority. 

Graham said Friday that the current political environment would make it "impossible" to pass the bill. 

The senator had recently threatened to withhold support when talks over an immigration bill loomed, but he made it official in a statement. 

"We should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success. Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment," Graham said.