Obama pushes Congress on financial reforms, spill

President Barack Obama pushed congressional leaders Thursday to pass energy, financial reform and jobs measures, even as they grapple with the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

He said he and the Republican and Democratic leaders had discussed the Gulf crisis, and all had agreed on the importance of considering how to update U.S. law to ensure victims of the spill are protected.

U.S. pollution legislation was written before the industry developed ultra-deep water exploration and ought be brought up to date to ensure the people of the Gulf "are made whole," the Democratic president said.

"That was a prominent part of the discussion, and I was pleased to see bipartisan agreement that we have to deal with that in an aggressive, forward-looking way," Obama said.

But he said he wanted Congress to pass during its current session his measures to boost the economy, generate jobs and aid small businesses and his sweeping financial regulatory reform bill.

"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," Obama said.

Obama met with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the two Democratic leaders in Congress, as well as House Republican leader John Boehner, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

McConnell said Senate Republicans -- and some Democrats -- were happy to work on legislation directly related to the spill in the Gulf, but would resist efforts to use it as a rationale for a comprehensive energy bill that would include an emissions trading mechanism.

"What most of my members, if not all of them, and a substantial number of Democrats in the United States Senate will not be interested in is seizing on the oil spill in the Gulf and using that as a rationale ... for passing a national energy tax," McConnell told reporters after the meeting.

Obama pushed for passage of his sweeping energy bill, which would fight climate change and ramp up production of renewable fuels.

"Although obviously our immediate task is to deal with a crisis that is affecting millions of people down 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.

Boehner said he felt both the Obama administration and BP should be held accountable "for their various failures" related to the spill.

Obama said the leaders had also talked about how to deal with debt and deficits, and control spending.

[Source: By Patricia Zengerle, Reuters, Washington, 10Jun10]

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