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WASHINGTON — Long-awaited climate change legislation was put on hold by its authors Saturday when a dispute over immigration politics and Senate priorities threatened to unravel a bipartisan effort that took months of work.
Voicing regrets, Sen. John Kerry said Saturday he is postponing the much anticipated unveiling of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation scheduled for Monday. The Massachusetts Democrat made his announcement after a key partner in drafting the bill, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, threatened to withhold support if Senate Democratic leaders push ahead first with an immigration bill.
Graham is angry that Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is considering that. Legislation to overhaul immigration laws and grant legal status to millions of long term immigrants unlawfully in the country could create problems for Republicans in the midterm elections. It’s a top priority for Hispanic voters — and most Republicans are opposed. Reid’s idea amounts to a “cynical political ploy,” Graham asserted.
Kerry tried to assure environmentalists and other backers of the climate bill that the delay will be short. The legislation aims to cut emissions of pollution-causing greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It also likely will expand domestic production of oil, natural gas and nuclear power.
“We all believe that this year is our best and perhaps last chance for Congress to pass a comprehensive approach,” Kerry said in a statement. “Regrettably, external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily.”