Despite setbacks on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama said Monday he still supports the need for broad climate legislation.
Speaking in the Rose Garden following a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders, Obama said the energy bill making its way through Congress now is "an important step in the right direction." But, he said, "I want to emphasize that it's only the first step." He pledged to keep pushing for passage of a comprehensive energy policy overhaul that addresses climate change.
"Our current energy policy is unsustainable," Obama said.
Last week, Senate Democrats abandoned plans for a sweeping measure that would cap greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said no Republican senators were willing to vote for the bill, leaving Democrats shy of the 60 votes needed to overcome GOP delaying tactics.
Instead Democrats hope to pass a narrower bill that responds to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and takes steps to improve energy efficiency.
Obama also called on Congress to pass legislation that he says will help small businesses grow and hire again.
A measure pending in the Senate would create a new lending fund to help community banks offer loans. Obama urged lawmakers not to block the initiative.
Obama announced during his State of the Union address earlier this year that he planned to hold monthly bipartisan meetings with congressional leaders at the White House. Among those present Monday was House Minority Leader John Boehner, who has ratcheted up his criticism of Obama in recent weeks, accusing the president of stooping to partisan attacks and saying Obama cannot sell his economic plan.
Obama has argued that Boehner and Republicans are trying to advance the same agenda that led the country into the recession.
The president said he urged Senate Republicans to help fill federal judgeship vacancies. He said his nominees have been waiting up to eight months to be confirmed, even though they have received unanimous or nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He blamed "some in the minority" for using procedural tactics to delay the votes.
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