White House says energy bill the top legislative priority this summer

Passing an energy bill will be President Barack Obama's top legislative priority this summer, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said Wednesday.

The president's main focus will shift to working toward a comprehensive energy bill once the Congress finishes up work on Wall Street reform, a process that is expected to conclude this month.

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"I would say that just in terms of timing, obviously, financial regulatory reform, that goes first," Burton said during an appearance on the liberal Bill Press radio show when asked if energy would be the top legislative priority for the White House.

"After we get through that, yes," Burton added.


Obama underscored the need for energy legislation Tuesday night during his Oval Office address, saying he's open to all approaches that would help transition the U.S. toward using renewable, clean energy sources.

"So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels," Obama said. "But the one approach I will not accept is inaction."

The House passed a climate change bill a year ago, and senators have been put on notice to expect to focus on energy legislation this summer. But even Democrats in the majority have had trouble agreeing on what that bill should look like — namely whether or not it should include measures to rein in climate change, or stay focused on supporting renewable energy and adding regulations to prevent the kinds of accidents that resulted in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The focus on energy marks something of a pivot in the administration's strategy for the summer, though. In April, Obama told Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), with whom he meets Wednesday in the Oval Office, that immigration reform legislation was "coming down the pike."

The focus on energy also adds to a busy summer schedule for lawmakers, who want to pass more long-term extensions to federal benefits programs and the Disclose Act campaign finance reform bill and, in the Senate, work to confirm Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. All that action comes against the backdrop of this November's midterm elections in Congress, in which Republicans hope to pick up a number of Democratic seats, maybe enough to take over one or both houses.


Cross-posted to the Blog Briefing Room.

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