ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Senate Democrats tried for the second day to begin the editing process of sweeping climate change legislation, but Republicans continued their boycott of the sessions. Republicans argue that the EPA should perform a more elaborate study of the impact of the proposed legislation before Senators consider it. Democrats in the Senate heard from EPA officials Thursday – Republicans boycotted that informational session too – who said previous studies on different pieces of legislation sufficiently gauged the impact of the Senate Democrats legislation. A full EPA review takes approximately five weeks and Democrats said it would be repetitive to wait five weeks at each stage of the legislative process. They promised to wait for the EPA evaluation before considering legislation on the Senate floor. Those assurances have not mollified Republicans. The ranking Republican on the Committee, Sen. James Inhofe, who has in the past described global warming as the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” dropped by the hearing to resubmit the reasons for the Republican boycott. Another Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, outlined why they feel another EPA evaluation of the legislation is needed, in a letter yesterday to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. Inhofe would not engage Democrats who tried to ask him about the letter at today’s markup, saying he didn’t want to confuse people by trying to talk about it, but would rather rely on the written letter. ”I really appreciate your stopping by,” Boxer told Inhofe as he stood up to go. “I hope you'll come back soon.” He patted her on the shoulder as he walked off. The bill would cap the amount of carbon emissions businesses could generate, but allow businesses who meet their goals to sell carbon emissions to business that do not. Boxer’s bill calls for a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 – more than the 17 percent cut mandated by a bill passed this summer in the House of Representatives. Democrats say they will be within their rights to consider amendments and pass the legislation out of committee despite the Republican boycott. 2 Republicans are normally needed for a quorum at the committee, but rules allow a way around that tradition if a majority of members are physically present to vote. Democrats control 12 of the 19 seats. It is unclear how long Boxer will wait before she proceeds with the actual amending of the bill without Republicans. For now it is a game of legislative chicken. For now she has stalled the markup, focusing on speeches and briefings, yesterday by EPA staffers and today by committee staffers. Some Democrats on the Committee equated Republicans unwillingness to take part in the markup with an overall view of climate change. “Their attitude is we are not showing up. we are going to slow walk this process,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats. Meanwhile, there is bipartisan support for climate change legislation. A press conference with Sen. John Kerry, who is a co-author of Boxer’s bill, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, was scheduled for later Wednesday to push for legislation. UPDATE: Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee bypassed Republicans to pass sweeping climate change legislation. It would mandate cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 – more than a House bill that passed over the Summer and more than the EPA would do without Congressional approval. Republicans boycotted the markup, arguing that more study on the legislation should come from the EPA before it was considered. Democrats called that a delaying tactic. They promise more study of a final bill before it hits the Senate floor. Floor consideration is a long way off. Committee tradition is that no bill should be passed without two minority party members for a quorum, but with the boycott, Democrats looked to the letter of the committee rules and voted with all their members in person. Republicans have described this move as a “nuclear option” by committee Democrats.
– Z. Byron Wolf