WASHINGTON – A key US Senate committee crafting sweeping legislation to combat climate change will keep working with or without its Republican members, who have threatened a boycott, its chairwoman said Monday.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, who leads the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, urged Republicans to attend a critical Tuesday hearing on the bill but warned their absence would not freeze progress on the measure.
"We look forward to working with them if they decide to participate, but if they do not, we will move forward in accordance with the rules of the Senate and of this committee," she said in a statement.
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Boxer, a key ally of President Barack Obama, urged the committee's top Republican, Senator James Inhofe "to bring the committee Republicans back to work on this issue."
Inhofe had no immediate reply, but Republicans have said they plan to shun the meeting because they lack a full review of the legislation from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office.
They have also reportedly said that the committee's rules forbid Boxer from holding a work hearing on the legislation without at least two Republicans present, a claim challenged by Democrats.
Democrats hold a 12-7 edge on the panel, but infighting among Democrats on the "cap-and-trade" regime the legislation would create for pollutants has clouded the legislation's fate, with some predicting the full Senate will not vote until 2010.
The House of Representatives passed a White House-backed bill in June to create a "cap and trade" system, but both chambers must approve the same legislation in order to send it to Obama for his signature.
The White House has pushed lawmakers to make as much progress as possible to signal US seriousness on the issue before global climate change talks in Denmark's capital Copenhagen.
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