WASHINGTON Monday's unveiling of a compromise Senate climate bill was postponed on Saturday, Democratic Senator John Kerry said, after a dispute arose over unrelated immigration reform legislation.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier on Saturday he would have to pull out of the bipartisan climate change effort because of concerns Democrats would push forward with a debate on immigration reform, rather than the climate change bill, in the Senate.
Kerry said he hoped to keep working for passage of a climate bill.
He said that after more than six months of detailed meetings with Graham and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, "we believe that we had reached" an agreement on the details of a bill to reduce smokestack emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases associated with global warming.
They were planning to outline those details at a news conference on Monday that would have been attended by some environmental and industry representatives.
"But regrettably, external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily" the Senate's work on the climate bill that also would have expanded U.S. nuclear power generation and offshore oil drilling.
The wide-ranging climate bill already faced an uphill battle in the Senate, even before it became enmeshed in a partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans over immigration reform.
But with only a few months left before November's congressional elections, senators are trying to determine where their efforts should be focused, with the elections playing an important role in their decision.
Earlier on Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Graham wrote a letter to his colleagues informing them that unless Democrats stepped back from plans to move ahead with immigration reform rather than the climate change bill, the South Carolina Republican would drop out of the three-senator working group.
Without Graham on board, efforts to pass climate control legislation could be doomed as he was expected to work to win more Republican support for the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement on Saturday that immigration and climate change were both important to Americans.
"They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other," Reid said.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)