Pete Domenici — Republican senator from New Mexico and chair of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — met with Cheney on Friday to talk climate. As Alex Flint, the senator’s top energy staffer, said, “Sen. Domenici is now convinced that climate change is occurring and that we need to do something about it.”Domenici is inclined to support a modest climate-change plan that Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) wants to attach to the energy bill — a “watered-down cap-and-trade scheme,” as our own Amanda Griscom Little describes it. His chief hesitation seems to be that it might cause troubles for the energy bill, which he’s trying to help shuffle through to Bush’s desk this summer.  As Miguel Bustillo of the L.A. Times reports, “If Domenici champions the legislation, supporters contend enough Republicans would follow suit to secure at least 50 votes in the Senate. If he does not, the Senate may still have sufficient votes to pass it. But it may lack sufficient backing to survive House-Senate negotiations over the final version of the energy bill.”

Despite the Bush administration’s whiny and bogus claim that Bingaman’s proposal “will put Americans out of work and drive energy-intensive production overseas,” as CEQ head James Connaughton put it on Friday, Domenici is not dissuaded. Reports AP’s H. Josef Hebert, “In recent days, Domenici has been lobbying other GOP senators — as well as the White House — on the merits of the proposal, carrying in his suit pocket a recent letter by science academies from 11 countries including the United States urging nations to take ‘prompt action to reduce the causes of climate change.’”

Domenici is no Olympia Snowe or John McCain or Lincoln Chafee.  He’s an old-school, red-meat Republican. If he’s coming around (even if it’s just to back a plan that many argue, rightly, is far too anemic), that tells you something. More evidence of that tipping point