Washington (CNN) - A Republican boycott of Senate committee debate on a major climate change bill continued for a second day Wednesday, frustrating majority Democrats who have threatened to move ahead despite the lack of a GOP presence.
Only one of the seven Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee showed up Wednesday when the panel started its meeting on the bill authored by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the panel's ranking Republican and an outspoken opponent of climate change legislation, left the meeting after delivering a brief statement. Republicans also stayed away from Tuesday's opening session after one GOP senator - George Voinovich of Ohio - made an opening statement.
Committee rules require at least two minority party members to be present to reach a working quorum. However, an exception could allow the committee to proceed on the bill without any Republicans, according to committee staff members.
Boxer, who chairs the committee, said Tuesday she hoped the Republicans would join the debate, but that the panel eventually would act on the bill without them as permitted under Senate rules.
Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for the committee's Republicans, told CNN that applying the exception would be a "nuclear option" by Democrats that would worsen the panel's already strained political climate.
On Wednesday, Inhofe issued a similar warning, telling Boxer that acting without the participation of Republicans would be "unwise."
"Choosing to set aside the committee's long-standing rules would jeopardize our ability to work together on other issues," he said.
He repeated the demand of Republicans for the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a full analysis of the bill's effects on the U.S. economy before the committee begins amending the measure. Such an analysis would take several weeks, and Democrats consider the Republican demand a stall tactic.
Boxer noted Tuesday the panel has held dozens of hearings on the issue and compiled more than 300,000 pages of analysis, and that she had taken the unprecedented step of scheduling a session with EPA experts to answer any questions by committee members. However, the Republicans skipped the EPA briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
Boxer also said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has promised the full EPA analysis sought by Republicans on the climate change bill that eventually comes before the entire Senate.
She accused the panel's Republicans of being wrong in their insistence that the EPA analysis of the bill was insufficient.
"You can't compromise when somebody says something that's just flat-out wrong," Boxer said Tuesday.
The committee's 12-member Democratic majority ensures enough support to send the bill to the full Senate without any Republican support.
Although the House has already passed its version of the bill, Senate approval is considered a much tougher challenge for Democratic proponents of the "cap-and-trade" legislation, which would contribute to reshaping the U.S. energy system.
Republicans say the Democratic climate change bill would harm the U.S. economy by raising energy costs and giving other nations a competitive advantage.
Democrats say reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the nation's dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and coal is necessary and strategic as the world moves toward clean and renewable energy sources.
The Senate bill would set a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and create a system of tradable pollution credits to ease the economic impact on polluters.