President Obama expects the Senate to move on to comprehensive energy and climate change legislation once it finishes work over the next few weeks on Wall Street regulatory reform.
"This is one of these foundational priorities from my perspective that has to be done soon," Obama said of the climate bill Friday during a White House meeting of outside experts helping the administration on economic recovery plans.
Obama predicted several weeks of Senate debate on the financial reform package, with lawmakers working behind the scenes on a climate bill that must get support from industry if it has any chance of passing.
"There has been a good bipartisan process taking place that would put a price on carbon," Obama said. "The one thing will be for the business community to be with us on this."
Obama said he expected a tough political fight cobbling together the votes on the Senate bill, which lead authors John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) have dubbed the "American Power Act." The Senate trio plans to release the bill next Monday.
"As Tip O'Neill said, 'All politics is local,'" Obama said in reference to the former House speaker. "Individual members of Congress may be worried about the impact in the short term of these moves.
"I fear that if we don't take these steps soon, we're going to have some big, big problems," Obama added.
John Doerr, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, prompted Obama's remarks about the nexus between economic recovery and energy issues. "Some sort of Kerry-Graham-Lieberman idea is a very promising way to do this and is very important," Doerr said.
Senior White House aides have been gearing up behind the scenes for the Senate debate by meeting with all sides of the energy debate. Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Carol Browner, the president's top staffer on energy and climate issues, will host U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue tomorrow as part of the administration's ongoing courtship of the nation's largest industry voice.
"They asked for the meeting," Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Friday.
The U.S. Chamber opposed the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454) last year.
Also last week, Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, met with environmental leaders and other key administration allies to map out strategy on the Senate bill. Multiple sources familiar with the meeting said Emanuel and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina insisted that the administration would help push the bill this spring or summer.
The Senate climate legislation is expected to put a price on carbon dioxide across multiple sectors of the economy, while also expanding domestic oil, gas and nuclear power production. After its release, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to work with key committee leaders on changes to the legislation that can garner 60 votes.
"Our mission is to negotiate a good bill that accomplishes what we want and has broad support, then we're going to give it to Harry, and he'll have to take it from there," Lieberman said.