By Ben Geman - 04/24/10 04:05 PM EDT
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is continuing to dispute suggestions that a new push by Democratic leaders to advance immigration reform legislation will prevent the climate bill he’s crafting from reaching the Senate floor this year.
Kerry, and Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) plan to unveil a sweeping climate and energy bill Monday.
“There are always people who think it’s impossible to tackle big challenges in an election year, but Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman have been working overtime to produce an approach that can succeed,” said Whitney Smith, a spokeswoman for Kerry.
“The Majority Leader reiterated this past Thursday to them that he is committed to make this the year bipartisan, comprehensive climate and energy reform passes the Senate and Senator Kerry knows the Leader is tough and determined enough to make it happen,” she said in a statement.
A controversial new immigration law in Arizona that President Barack Obama criticized Friday is helping to propel the issue to the forefront of Democrats’ Capitol Hill agenda.
This is prompting speculation that immigration legislation will come to the Senate floor before the climate and energy bill, and perhaps keep the climate measure from the election-year floor agenda altogether.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not commented on the sequencing of the measures, and last week called both issues priorities. Both immigration and climate legislation are controversial and face uncertain floor prospects.
On Friday Reid called the new Arizona law “another important example of why we need to fix our broken system.” The law has prompted criticism from Latino groups and other activists who call it an assault on civil liberties.
The state law gives police new powers to stop and demand documentation from people the believe may be in the country illegally, among other provisions.
“While the first step in immigration reform must include border security, we cannot approach this important issue in a piecemeal fashion. Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass comprehensive reform that is tough on people who break the law, fair to taxpayers, respectful of civil liberties and practical to implement,” Reid said.