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Tallying Up The Climate Bill Fence-Sitters

Darren Samuelsohn dusts off the crystal ball and tries to figure out if the climate bill can garner 60 votes in the Senate. By his count, there are now 67 senators in play—that includes 43 likely "yes" votes (including the two Maine Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins), 17 dithering Dems, and seven Republican fence-straddlers: Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, George Voinovich, Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, and George LeMieux. Graham, recall, wants any climate bill to include more offshore drilling and backing for nukes, and those tweaks might just entice a few of his aisle-mates. That's still unclear.

Also, to split hairs a bit, a climate bill doesn't really need 60 "yes" votes. It just needs 60 senators to thwart a filibuster—even if some of those filibuster-thwarting senators vote "no" on the final bill—and then 50 votes in favor. A few Democrats, including Sherrod Brown and Arlen Specter, have already pledged not to filibuster a climate package, regardless of their final vote. In the health care debate, Harry Reid and other Senate leaders have been trying to enforce this sort of party unity on all procedural votes—something Brian Beutler has been tracking closely at TPM. How these health-reform maneuvers shake out could have a big impact on the prospects for cap-and-trade legislation.