“The international community will gather at Copenhagen this December, and it is critical that the United States lead the world into that conference and not still be debating the bill here at home,” said James Boyce, a Boston-based Democratic consultant who works on climate issues.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says he isn’t worried about the Senate delay because, “We’ve got to make progress, and the international community’s got to make progress getting China and India and developing nations and evolving world economies like Brazil on board.”
The White House has not laid down a firm timeline for the bill, however.
Mr. Reid told reporters that the Senate still has “next year to complete things” if the climate bill doesn’t reach the floor in 2009, but his spokesman soon walked it back to say the Senate remains committed to passing the bill by the end of the year, along with health care and new financial regulations.
Mr. Obama announced on Tuesday a new auto fuel economy standards policy to reduce greenhouse gases, and was expected this week to speak at the United Nations climate change summit in New York and address environmental issues at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh.
Others noted that Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. regularly talk about the importance of clean energy and jobs related to climate change policy.
“It’s hard to find another president who has shown as much leadership on climate as this one,” said Navin Nayak of the League of Conservation Voters.
But Mr. Davies of Greenpeace said that without a bill passed, it leaves governments with uncertainty, since other countries are putting markers on the table now.
Others said the House bill - which imposes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions - is enough of a benchmark to show the United States is serious.
Mr. Kreindler noted that energy and climate have moved further through Congress than any other piece of the administration’s agenda.
“Given the complexity of the issue, to have a bill out of the House in a president’s first year is remarkable,” he said.
The environmental groups also said that despite a stall on Capitol Hill, polls show broad American support for getting something done soon.
They also have new momentum, with the formation of a grassroots group of faith leaders, veterans and labor leaders dubbed Clean Energy Works, which has staff in 28 states. The coalition is organizing to keep tying the bill to job creation.
David Di Martino of Clean Energy Works dismissed others groups’ concerns about Copenhagen, saying that the American people who will help build support for the bill’s passage aren’t thinking about the upcoming summit and that the fall months leave time to consider the measure.
“President Obama hasn’t forgotten about this issue as key to his domestic agenda, and they will get to it when there is time for it,” he said.