By Sam Youngman - 11/23/09 04:27 PM EST
A senior Obama administration
official lamented Monday that even as the president has made climate change a
priority, Capitol Hill has been dominated by the healthcare debate.
"We would have obviously
preferred that healthcare would've been finished a long time ago, and we would
be in an energy debate, but that didn't happen," the official said.
White House officials said they were pleased
that the House has passed a bill and a Senate committee has also passed
bills, but foreign leaders have questioned how much the U.S. can commit to an
agreement without Congress making substantially more progress.
"It would be a mistake to
conclude that the lack of a treaty in December was because the legislation
didn't pass," one official said.
Officials noted that the
"Senate is busy," but they said senior White House aides have met
with more than 24 senators to work toward the bill.
When asked for a timeline on climate
change legislation in the Senate, one official noted with a joke that Majority
Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hoped to begin debate in the spring.
"The good news is spring is
coming earlier and earlier in light of climate change," the official said.
Officials noted that as they prepare
for the Copenhagen summit, they would need to submit target numbers for
greenhouse gas emissions that are "consistent with the legislative
One official said the White House
would make a submission, possibly a specific number, but they want to ensure
that it "doesn't get ahead of or [isn’t] at odds with" what Congress
One administration official said the
discussion on Capitol Hill has changed dramatically in the last six to eight
weeks, and the White House sees hope for legislation.
"Most members are saying 'when' we get a bill, as opposed to 'if' we get a bill," the official said.