President Obama stressed the need to pass energy and financial reform legislation, and to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and prevent similar spills in the future during a meeting Thursday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

At the top of the agenda was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama said. In addition to an update on measures being taken to address the environmental impact of the spill, “we had a frank conversation about the fact that the laws that have been in place have not been adequate for a crisis of this magnitude,” Obama said. ” The Oil Pollution Act was passed at a time when people didn’t envision drilling four miles under the sea for oil.” Laws need to be updated to make sure that the people in the Gulf — the fishermen, the hotel owners, families who are dependent for their livelihoods in the Gulf — that they are all made whole and that we are in a much better position to respond to any such crisis in the future,” he said.

The administration has tussled with some lawmakers who believe that Obama’s decision to ban deepwater drilling for six months in the wake of the explosion aboard the BP plc-leased Deepwater Horizon rig will badly hurt deepwater drilling and the Gulf Coast economy (see Daily GPI, June 10a; May 28).

While the immediate task is to deal with the crisis in the Gulf, “we can’t keep our eye off the importance of having an energy policy that meets the needs of the next generation and ensures that the United States is the leader when it comes to energy policy,” Obama said. “We are not yet that leader, and that’s what I want us to do.”

Pending energy and climate bills have been stalled in the Senate for some time. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted out an energy bill a year ago (see Daily GPI, June 18, 2009). Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) last month unveiled long-awaited legislation that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (see Daily GPI, May 13). Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) on Tuesday introduced another energy and climate change bill, which he said would focus on vehicle efficiency and energy efficiency to decrease national energy consumption, foreign oil consumption, average residential electric bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions (see Daily GPI, June 10b).

Lawmakers “have to move on an energy agenda that is forward-looking, that creates jobs, that assures that we are leaders in solar and wind and biodiesel, but recognizes that we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for many years to come, that we are going to still be using oil and we’re still going to be using other fossil fuels, but that we have to start planning now and putting the infrastructure in place now, putting the research and development in place now so that we end up being leaders in our energy future,” Obama said.

Obama’s energy policies got a boost Thursday when the Senate voted 53-47 to reject a resolution that would have blocked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act. The “disapproval resolution” had been introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) (see Daily GPI, May 26).

The president and congressional leaders also discussed financial reform legislation, Obama said. “The financial markets, I think, deserve certainty, but more importantly in my mind consumers and the American people deserve to know that there’s a regulatory framework that is in place that protects consumers, investors, ordinary folks, and assures taxpayers that they never again are put in a position where they’ve got to bail out somebody because of their irresponsible acts.”

The Senate last month passed broad-based legislation that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system, including regulation of the OTC derivatives market for the first time (see Daily GPI, May 24). The legislation also retains a hotly contested provision that would require big banks, such as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citibank, to either shed or spin off their lucrative derivatives trading desks, a move that was widely opposed by Republicans (see Daily GPI, April 22).

The Senate and House will now move to reconcile their respective bills in conference (S. 3217, HR 4173). The House passed its financial regulatory reform bill in December (see Daily GPI, Dec. 14, 2009).

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