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 April 28, 2010
Senator Kerry attempts to edge climate bill forward

 Senator John Kerry yesterday gave the clearest signal yet that he is not giving up on passing climate change legislation this year, confirming that the draft bill that was scheduled to be unveiled on Monday will still be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for analysis, despite the withdrawal of support by Republican senator Lindsey Graham.

Over the weekend, Graham dropped his support for the controversial climate bill, which he had been working on with senator Kerry and independent senator Joe Lieberman, accusing senate Democratic leaders of attempting to sideline the bill to pass immigration reforms.

However, senator Kerry told reporters yesterday that he had received consent from senator Graham to submit the draft bill to the EPA, which is required to undertake an economic impact assessment on the new legislation.

The EPA analysis is expected to take about a month and the move will bolster hopes that the Democrats can win back senator Graham's support before the bill moves through various senate committees ahead of a full vote.

Further independent assessments of the bill are also likely to be undertaken by the Congressional Budget Office and potentially the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, but the news that the bill is at least moving forward will bolster hopes that the legislation can still secure a senate vote ahead of this November's mid-term elections.

However, those chances have appeared to recede over the past few days as senator Graham and Democrat Party leaders have shown little willingness to compromise.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who senator Graham blames for the effort to push immigration reform ahead of the climate change bill, said yesterday that he remains committed to passing both bills this year.

That would fail to appease senator Graham, who has said that any attempt to pass immigration reform this year would be a case of "breaking faith" with him after he has devoted so much political capital to developing the climate change bill.

Republican sources accused senator Reid of pushing the immigration bill to secure Hispanic votes in the forthcoming mid-term elections, when the Nevada senator is expected to face a fight to hold on to his seat.

However, the Democrats countered that immigration reform has been forced up the priority list after Republicans in Arizona passed highly controversial new legislation that gives sweeping new stop-and-search powers to the authorities, which are designed to tackle illegal immigration but have been slammed by critics as a rolling back of civil rights.