WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he is willing to bring up climate change legislation ahead of an immigration bill, a possible first step toward resolving a dispute with Senate Republicans that threatens to derail a bipartisan effort months in the making.

But Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, still angry that Reid considered putting off the climate bill, said nothing has changed. The majority leader appears not to be serious about either the climate bill or the immigration measure, said Graham. He has threatened to withhold support for the climate bill if Reid pushes ahead first on immigration.

In remarks to reporters, Reid said the long-delayed climate bill “is much further down the road in terms of a product” than the immigration measure, which remains unwritten.

“The energy bill is ready. We will move to that more quickly than a bill we don’t have,” said Reid, D-Nev. “I don’t have an immigration bill.”

Graham told The Associated Press, “If you cared about energy and climate and you really were committed to that issue, you would not put immigration on the table knowing it will never pass.”

Last week the South Carolina Republican called Reid’s idea a “cynical political ploy” that would destroy bipartisan efforts to move forward on climate and immigration.

Graham’s threat to withdraw support for the climate bill led Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, the measure’s lead sponsor, to postpone a Monday news conference unveiling the climate bill. The legislation aims to cut emissions of pollution-causing greenhouse gases 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, while expanding domestic production of oil, natural gas and nuclear power.

Kerry said Tuesday he was working with Reid, Graham and others to revive the bill, which he, Graham and Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman have been developing for more than six months. It also has the support of the Obama administration and a variety of business and environmental groups.

“We’re not stopping, not one moment. We’re meeting, we’re talking, we’re continuing to work at certain issues,” Kerry told reporters.

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. The bill is a top priority for Hispanic voters — and most Republicans are opposed.

Pushing immigration ahead of climate legislation would have risked angering environmentalists, who see this as their best chance in years to address global warming. Reid, however, is up for re-election this year and trailing in polls in Nevada, where Latinos are an important constituency.


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