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Senate Democrats to Obama on energy bill: Help us

Senate Democrats feel pressure to 'do something' on the long-stalled energy bill. The Gulf oil spill has widened the partisan divide. The White House will hold a bipartisan meeting Wednesday.

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Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) of Connecticut (l.) announce the results of the Environmental Protection Agency's economic analysis of the American Power Act on June 15 on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Drew Angerer)

Drew Angerer/AP

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Senate Democrats are taking a fresh run at energy legislation this week, beginning with a bipartisan White House meeting on Wednesday and a Democratic caucus meeting on Thursday to find common ground.

The hope that the Gulf oil spill disaster might break partisan deadlock as 9/11 did – leading to a flood of new legislation – has not come to pass. So far, it has only reinforced the partisan tensions.

Moreover, Democrats are divided among themselves on the way forward. Options range from a comprehensive energy and climate change bill that sets caps for carbon emissions on one hand to two competing measures that establish renewable-energy mandates for utility companies. None of these options has the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate without a filibuster – or even to muster all the Democratic votes.

To get a bill, President Obama will have to take a stronger role.

“It's pretty clear that we have to do something,” said Senate majority leader Harry Reid after a caucus luncheon on Tuesday. “A lot depends on what the White House is going to do to help us get something done."

Democrats' search for 60

In the run-up to Wednesday's meeting, Senate Democrats have been proposing scaled-down versions of energy legislation in a bid to get to 60 votes.

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