CAP-AND-TRADE’S BLEAK FUTURE…. The fate of health care reform is, of course, unclear. How about the climate bill? The NYT reports today that advocates are “turning their sights to a more modest package of climate and energy measures that they believe has a better chance of clearing Congress this year.”

Their preferred approach, a cap-and-trade system to curb emissions of climate-changing gases, already faced a difficult road in a bruised and divided Senate. Its prospects grew dimmer after the special election in Massachusetts last week was won by Scott Brown, a Republican who repudiated the federal cap-and-trade proposal in his campaign.

Republicans, industry executives and some Democrats have already written cap and trade’s obituary, at least for this year. And even some of the system’s most ardent supporters now say they must scale back their ambitions and focus on job-creating energy projects and energy efficiency measures if they are to have any hope of dealing with climate change in this Congress.

“Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who is trying to fashion a bipartisan package of climate and energy measures.

Graham, who said cap-and-trade is “dead,” is working with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on an energy/climate bill that ostensibly offers a little something for everyone.

For its part, the White House seems to approve of the Kerry/Graham/Lieberman approach, and is willing to support drilling and expanded nuclear plants in exchange for “some form of cap on emissions.”

Expect to hear more about this in the State of the Union tonight.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.