Obama and senators meet on climate change, energy
By David A. Fahrenthold
President Obama met with Cabinet members and 14 senators Tuesday afternoon to talk about climate change and energy. One senator in attendance said the president emphasized his desire for a climate bill but provided few specifics about what it should contain.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), said that the senators sitting around the table seemed to agree that they want to pass climate legislation -- though they still disagree about what the legislation should look like.
He said that Obama did not make detailed demands.
"There's no consensus, there's no 'This is our bill, this is what we've got to do. No direction like that from the president -- other than he wants something broad," said Brown.
Brown said that Obama told the senators they couldn't simply pass the popular parts of the legislation, and not solve thornier problems -- repeating dinner-table advice he gives to his daughters.
"You gotta eat the peas before you get the pie," Obama said, according to Brown.
After the 70-minute meeting, the White House issued a statement saying that "the President expressed his strong support for a bipartisan effort to establish clean energy incentives that will create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- and he made clear that the best way to drive a transition to a clean energy economy is to give business the predictability and certainty it needs to make investments."
The statement said that senators "agreed to continue the dialogue about a path forward for comprehensive energy legislation."
Efforts to address climate change -- which Obama made a centerpiece of his environmental agenda -- have seemed near a low ebb lately. Last summer, the House passed a bill to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, using a "cap and trade" system in which factories, power plants and other emitters could buy and sell allowances to pollute.
But a similar bill went nowhere in the Senate.
Now, a trio of Senators -- John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- are working on a compromise measure. Sources have said that the approach the three are currently considering would scrap that wide-ranging cap-and-trade system in favor of a more limited one, applying to electric utilities only. Other sources of greenhouse gases, like automobiles, would be handled by different means.
At the same time, several senators have proposed to strip the Obama Administration of its backup plan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare -- a decision that should trigger regulations to limit them.
But bills proposed by Sen. Lisa P. Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and others would either delay or cancel out that threat of EPA regulations.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) issued a statement calling Tuesday's meeting "extremely productive."
"The tone at the meeting was warm, positive, and collegial," the statement said. "I look forward to continuing to work with the White House and my colleagues as we continue to seek specific agreements on specific issues."
The White House said that attendees included Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and NEC Directory Larry Summers, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Sen. George S. LeMieux (R-Fla.), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), as well as Brown, Boxer, Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, Murkowski and Rockefeller.
David A. Fahrenthold| March 9, 2010; 7:11 PM ET Save & Share:
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