Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is negotiating behind the scenes to come to a compromise on oil spill liability language that on-the-fence Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Begich (Alaska), and maybe even a Republican or two, can endorse.

A Senate aide privy to the negotiations says Menendez is “willing to listen,” as long as the final liability language includes three must-have provisions. According to the aide, the final language must:

1. Get rid of the liability cap.

2. Guarantee that coastal families are compensated for all damages.

3. Guarantee that taxpayers don’t have to spend a dime.

This doesn’t appear to leave much room for negotiation, particularly since Landrieu, Begich and most Republicans oppose the legislation (which Menendez wrote) because it lifts the cap on companies’ liability in the event of an oil spill. If Menendez isn’t willing to budge on the cap, the negotiations are certain to fall flat.

More broadly, this is the latest indication (and there are many) that an oil spill response bill isn’t going anywhere before the August recess and maybe even this year.

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