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Obama to push climate change in White House meeting

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 - 1:26pm

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will corral on Tuesday key Republican and Democratic senators whose support is critical for passing a climate change law, seeking to jump-start stalled efforts to overhaul energy policy.

Obama called the White House meeting with top lawmakers and members of his cabinet to reinvigorate one of his policy priorities, which even his advisers admit has suffered from the president's intense focus on healthcare reform.

The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would require the United States to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases 17 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, roughly the same goal Washington has backed at international talks to combat global warming.

But the Senate has not passed a similar measure, and a bipartisan group of senators including Democrat John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham and independent Joe Lieberman are expected to produce a bill soon.

Those three senators are invited to the talks, along with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The White House meeting also brings together five Democratic senators who chair committees with oversight of various aspects of a climate change and energy bill, along with the senior Republicans on some of those panels.

Also invited were some senators who have not yet voiced support for a climate change bill this year but might be persuaded to vote for one if it addresses their concerns.

Democratic Senator John Rockefeller and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski likely will want to discuss their bills to slow down or prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.