White House plots climate strategy with Senate, House Democrats

Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators seek documents on Trump's alleged call for Barr press conference Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (D-R.I.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) met with White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughFormer Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report Trailer shows first look at Annette Bening as Dianne Feinstein 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE last week to coordinate climate strategy, the Rhode Island Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

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Whitehouse said he and Waxman requested the sit down with McDonough. The pair of lawmakers lead a bicameral effort aimed at pushing executive action on climate change.

“We’re continuing to keep an open dialogue. I think it’s very important for the executive branch and the legislative branch to be working together on this and not have one set of White House strategies and one set of Democratic Senate and House strategies,” Whitehouse said after an energy and environment event he hosted in the Capitol.

McDonough took over as White House chief of staff in January. 

It’s the second such meeting between Whitehouse, Waxman — the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee — and administration officials regarding climate change. The first came in March.

McDonough is viewed as an advocate of addressing climate change, potentially giving Waxman and Whitehouse an open line of communication to relay their policy concerns to the Obama administration.

The liberal lawmakers have pressed President Obama to take more aggressive action on climate, noting partisan gridlock will likely close off the legislative route.

They want Obama to forge ahead with emissions standards for existing coal-fired power plants, expand energy efficiency efforts and sign more international climate accords, among other items.

“This issue is going to define this presidency,” Whitehouse said. “I think what he said and where he is will force him — will impel him — to take action before long.”

Some liberal groups, though, have grown wary of Obama’s commitment to climate change.

Despite the president’s vow to tackle emissions in his inauguration and State of the Union speeches, some green and left-leaning groups say they have seen little to back up those statements.

They point to the Obama administration’s delay on enacting emissions rules for existing power plants and hints that it will approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Keystone is currently under federal review. Its builder, TransCanada Corp., requires a cross-border permit from the administration to complete its northern leg.

A draft environmental review released in March by the State Department said the Canada-to-Texas pipeline would not significantly ramp up oil sands production or greenhouse gas emissions.

State said demand would force the carbon-intensive fossil fuels out of the ground with or without Keystone, saying other pipelines or rail could transport oil sands.

Keystone's supporters have pointed to the draft review as confirmation that building the pipeline is in the national interest and that claims of a major climate setback are overblown.

The pipeline’s opponents have rejected Foggy Bottom's finding. They have appealed to Obama and Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryPompeo announces Israeli settlements do not violate international law Deval Patrick's 2020 entry raises stakes in New Hampshire Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide MORE to nix the project, saying it would harm efforts to rein in carbon emissions.