06/29/2010 02:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kerry, Lieberman Willing To Scale Back Energy Bill To Get Republican Support

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The authors of sweeping energy legislation stalled in the Senate said Tuesday they were prepared to scale back their bill to get Republican support.

Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman made the comments after meeting at the White House with fellow senators and President Barack Obama, who is pushing for action in the wake of the Gulf oil spill.

"We are prepared to scale back the reach of our legislation in order to try to find that place of compromise," Kerry, D-Mass., said after the meeting.

But the road to compromise looked anything but clear. Kerry, D-Mass., and Lieberman, I-Conn., said that during the meeting with Obama the president insisted the bill must include a price on the carbon emissions blamed for global warming - something that's anathema to many Republicans.

And when Republicans left the meeting they lambasted the approach, calling it a "national energy tax" they could never accept.

"If we want a clean energy bill, take a national energy tax off the table in the middle of a recession while we focus on the oil spill and focus on what we agree on," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

The climate bill by Kerry and Lieberman would tax carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal-fired power plants and other large polluters, as a way to reduce pollution blamed for global warming. The measure aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is aiming to bring the bill to the Senate floor in July.

The bill's sole Republican backer, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, withdrew his support last month, saying it is impossible to pass the legislation in the current political climate.

Nonetheless Lieberman and Kerry said that some Republicans in Tuesday's meeting indicated openness to compromise. They declined to say who.

"As you know Sen. Graham helped us shape this bill. He still believes we have to price carbon. There are a group of Republicans who believe we have to price carbon. The question is how, and that's what we need to continue to work on," said Kerry.

The House passed its own measure last year.