ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Despite President Obama’s call for a comprehensive energy and climate bill in response to the BP oil mess, legislative leaders are still hunting for the votes in Congress, with Senate Democrats meeting this afternoon to discuss a path forward on energy. On ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Robert Menendez, a member of Senate Democratic leadership, said senators are still debating whether they have sufficient support for a comprehensive energy and environmental bill – including, possibly, a new cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions. “If there’s to be 60 votes, we obviously need some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us,” said Menendez, D-N.J. “And look, that’s what a caucus is about, because we know that moving to new-energy, renewable-energy sources, is critical for our country – not only in terms of energy, in terms of jobs, in terms of creating a new green economy. “And the question is, ‘Which way do you do that?’ Do you do that through a comprehensive climate change bill, or do you do that with an energy package that may, in fact, be sustainable in the short-term and be able to pass as you still continue to build towards climate change? So I hope climate change can move forward, but we’re gonna get a better sense of that today.” Asked if he’s concerned about the impression – a notion being pushed by Republicans – that Democrats are seeking to exploit the crisis in the Gulf to press their agenda, Menendez said: “No one is trying to exploit the Gulf,” Menendez said. “What it does do is it dramatizes for people across the country who might have been ambivalent about how we move to renewable energy sources the urgency of moving to that sooner rather than later. And I think that that is totally an acceptable understanding of — here’s a vivid example of why we must move to those renewable energy sources, so that we don’t have the risk of another spill, so that we’re not polluting our collective environment, so that we breathe cleaner air, and so that we can also create a new generation of jobs that will be high-paying, can’t be exported abroad, and we stop sending a trillion dollars abroad to countries that are despotic.” We also got Menendez’s thoughts on efforts to find a new Democratic Senate candidate in South Carolina, given nominee Alvin Greene’s legal troubles and odd candidacy. He also touched on Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s bid to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Watch the full interview with Sen. Robert Menendez HERE. For our “Post Politics” segment, we chatted with Dave Weigel of The Washington Post about the Green and Angle candidacies – plus today’s statement by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, apologizing to BP for what he called a White House “shakedown.”
“He is saying what Republicans think about this,” Weigel said of Barton. “They don’t want the president’s people to bully another industry and shift the politics here. So they might actually — after a day of getting battered and distanced by Republicans, this might turn out another way for him.” Watch the full discussion with Dave Weigel HERE.