Senate Democrats are expected to introduce an energy package shortly after the July 4 recess, an as-yet undetermined combination of energy, oil-spill, and possibly climate-change measures. The Senate was expected to debate the package the week of July 19, but with no clear picture yet of what that package might look like, that seems less likely.
A number of environmental groups want the president to step in and give the Senate some clear guidance on the package, which they say is crucial at this point. "White House leadership is the only path we see to success, just as your direct leadership was critical in the passage of the recovery plan, health care reform, and other administration successes," wrote the heads of nine environmental groups in a letter to Obama.
President Obama met with a bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday of this week, but the meeting didn't make the picture any more clear. Senators said Obama called for the package to include a price on carbon, but most of the Republican senators (save Olympia Snowe of Maine) outright rejected that idea.
Hill staffers briefed on the meeting say it was more of a listening session for Obama than one in which he outlined what he wants in a bill. Press secretary Robert Gibbs signaled as much at Thursday's press briefing. "The president had a good meeting a couple days ago with senators from both parties that have led on this issue," he said. "We have not made any final determinations about the size and scope of the legislation except to say that the president believes, and continues to believe, that putting a price on carbon has to be part of our comprehensive energy reform."
The heads of the Alliance for Climate Protection, the Blue Green Alliance, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Union of Concerned Scientists signed onto the letter, which called on Obama to give the senate more direction on the issue. Here's the key portion of the letter:
The Senate needs your help to end this paralysis. With the window of opportunity quickly closing, nothing less than your direct personal involvement, and that of senior administration officials, can secure America's clean energy future. We strongly urge you to produce a bill, in conjunction with key Senators, that responds to the catastrophe in the Gulf, cuts oil use, and limits carbon pollution while maintaining current health and other key legal protections. We further urge you to work with the Senate to bring that bill to the floor for passage before the August recess. White House leadership is the only path we see to success, just as your direct leadership was critical in the passage of the recovery plan, health care reform, and other administration successes.