President Obama urged House Democrats today to reach consensus on global warming and energy legislation during a closed-door White House meeting.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, White House energy advisers and three dozen or so Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee met for about an hour to discuss a range of issues before the panel, including the climate bill that has been stuck for weeks in subcommittee.
After the meeting, Democrats stressed that Obama stayed away from details and urged lawmakers guarding regional interests to work together.
“We're talking to each other. And we're working out these issues because we want to be together and we want to succeed in getting this legislation through," said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee chairman. He said lawmakers had reached agreement on "Cash for Clunkers" language and would provide details later.
Waxman declined to comment when asked if the markup would start this week, saying only that he remains committed to moving the bill by Memorial Day.
The Democrats also confirmed a published report that the White House was interested in linking support for a climate change bill with a separate plan to expand domestic energy production. But Waxman declined to elaborate, saying energy production is not in his committee's jurisdiction; the matter would rest with the Natural Resources Committee.
As with the recent stimulus package and budget resolution, Obama has largely left lawmakers to haggle over the details on the climate legislation, promising to enter talks only at critical moments. But with the climate bill in dire straits at the subcommittee level, Obama decided it was time to weigh in.
"We're already at a key moment," said Paul Bledsoe, a spokesman for the National Commission on Energy Policy.
This year's climate push has little of the bipartisan spirit that sponsors tried to inject in last June's Senate debate, when Virginia Republican John Warner teamed with Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and California Democrat Barbara Boxer on a broad cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions.
By contrast, Republicans today opened their own summit on issues aimed at portraying the Democratic climate plan as a new energy tax.
"Now, some in Washington say the only way to clean up the environment is through government regulation, and they are pursuing a new national energy tax to do it," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at the start of the GOP session on Capitol Hill.
"With all due respect, that's the wrong approach," Boehner said. "We know raising taxes hurts the economy. We can clean up our environment and create jobs at the same time. We don't need a national energy tax that would send millions of American jobs overseas."
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