October 22, 2009 / 8:08 PM / 11 years ago

White House encouraged by climate bill status

* Obama aide says U.S. will manage at U.N. climate talks

* Says Obama sees nuclear as part of overall package

(Adds more quotes from Browner)

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - The White House is encouraged by progress on a climate change bill in the Senate and is working to advance it even if a December deadline passes, an aide to President Barack Obama said on Thursday.

Carol Browner, Obama’s top adviser on climate and energy issues, told Reuters that White House officials were reaching out to Democratic and Republican senators in an aggressive push to move the bill forward.

"There have been some bipartisan conversations that we find very encouraging," Browner said in an interview. "We are going to continue to do everything in our power to keep this moving."

If a law is not passed by the time U.N. talks on a global warming pact begin in December in Copenhagen, the United States would still have a strong position on the issue in the negotiations, she said.

"Wherever we are in the process, we will be able to manage in Copenhagen."

Browner, who has expressed doubts that a bill would become law by December, said U.S. negotiators would stress Obama’s domestic initiatives on climate change and renewable energy since coming into office.

"We’ll have been in office by the time we get there, what, 10 months? And yet if you look at what we’ve accomplished, its quite significant," she said.

European countries and environmentalists want Washington to do more to encourage the Copenhagen talks.

Obama’s presence at the talks would help. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he would go and called on other world leaders to attend, too.

But Browner said the time was not right to make that call. "As the president himself has said, it’s just too early to make that decision," she said.

Obama is expected to go to neighboring Norway in December to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

Browner said Obama, who has focused most of his legislative arm-twisting on healthcare reform, would become more involved in the climate bill as time passed.

"He’s engaged as is appropriate to where we are in the process and, as the process moves along, will be more engaged," she said.

Browner assuaged concerns from some critics that the president did not support a role for nuclear energy in the bill. Republicans such as Senator John McCain have pushed for nuclear power to have a more prominent place in the legislation.

"It’s something that we believe should be in a comprehensive energy package," Browner said.

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