Climate Bill To Proceed Despite Loss Of Key Backer

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had backed the measure for months, says the legislation is unlikely to pass in the current environment. The bill aims to cut emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Two supporters of a climate change and energy bill in the U.S. Senate said Friday they will release details of the measure next Wednesday despite losing the support of a key Republican lawmaker.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said they would go ahead with plans to unveil the legislation despite the loss of support of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

The three lawmakers had been negotiating for months over details of the legislation, but Graham said he doubts the measure had much chance of success.

"Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment," Graham said in a statement. "I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future. But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill."

Sixty votes are required in the Senate to overcome filibusters.

But Kerry said the Gulf Coast oil spill provides all the more reason to move the bill forward.

"If you want to want to move away from oil dependence in the country, if you want to break America's addiction to OPEC and to petroleum, then the best thing we can do as a country right now is pass comprehensive energy legislation," said Whitney Smith, a spokeswoman for Kerry.

Kerry predicted Graham will eventually vote for a bill.

Kerry and Lieberman said they plan to introduce the bill Wednesday -- two weeks after they first pledged to unveil it.

"We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last [few] weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment," Kerry and Lieberman said.

They cited a growing and unprecedented bipartisan coalition from the business, national security, faith and environmental communities in support of the legislation.

Last month, Graham threatened to withhold his support for the climate and energy legislation because he was angry that Democrats said they would take up a rewrite of immigration policy. That forced Kerry and Lieberman to postpone the long-awaited unveiling of the legislation, which aims to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

To win over Republicans and pro-drilling Democrats such as Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the bill calls for expansion of offshore drilling, which some Democrats have said they now oppose because of the Gulf spill.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report

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