Obama to meet senators on energy bill next week
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will meet key Republican and Democratic senators on June 23 to discuss a way forward for energy legislation currently stalled in the Senate, a White House aide said on Wednesday.
The meeting, which will include Republican Lindsey Graham, one of three original authors of the bill in the Senate who later dropped support for it, takes place as the president pushes for energy reform in the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
"Next week he will be reaching out to senators on both sides of the aisle to chart a path forward," the official said.
In his Oval Office address late on Tuesday, Obama said he was willing to take ideas from both political parties in order to advance the legislation.
"The tragedy in the Gulf underscores the need to move quickly, and the president is committed to finding the votes for comprehensive energy legislation this year," the aide said.
Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent, said on Wednesday he thought Obama was pushing for comprehensive legislation and his support could make a big difference for the bill that many doubt can pass ahead of November's mid-term congressional elections.
"The president is not asking that the Congress pass another ordinary energy bill as we've done twice in the last five years, that hasn't really changed our dependence on foreign oil or on fossil fuel generally," Lieberman told reporters. "He's asking for something so big that he compared it to the mobilization for World War Two and the moonshot program."
Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry and Republican Senators Susan Collins and Richard Lugar will also be involved in the meeting, among others, the White House aide said.
Kerry and Lieberman unveiled the Senate bill last month which would require U.S. industries and utilities to cut their output of carbon dioxide pollution, which many scientists blame for global warming.
In a move to attract Republican votes in the divided Senate, the two senators also included incentives for expanding nuclear generating capacity, oil and gas drilling and research on how to cut pollution at coal-burning utilities and factories.
After BP's massive spill, the bill would also likely include measures to strengthen oversight of offshore drilling, while allowing it to continue.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Eric Beech and Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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