By Jay Fitzgerald
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will have a message for President Obama at his first one-on-one White House meeting today: Don't get slick with the oil spill and use the Gulf disaster to penalize already overburdened businesses.
"I think he's going to push an agenda," Brown told the Herald yesterday, adding that he's worried the president will try to use the oil spill to rally support for cap-and-trade pollution-cutting legislation and more taxes on businesses.
"I'm going to suggest he focus on jobs," said Brown about the meeting requested by the president, which will be the first time the two men have met since Brown's stunning election victory in January.
The president spoke to the nation last night about the Gulf oil spill, which has turned into a political nightmare for the president, who's been accused of being too detached from the environmental fiasco unfolding off and on the shores of the country.
During the primetime speech, Obama reiterated his backing for energy legislation that would encourage development of alternative energy sources and aim to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
"The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now," Obama said.
A White House official said Brown's Oval Office powwow with the president will be to simply discuss "mutual interests."
Brown said his primary concern is that the president is angling to use the Gulf fiasco, either now or later, as leverage to push a major environmental bill that includes a controversial cap-and-trade limit on the amount of carbon pollution companies can discharge without getting slapped with penalties.
"I have a feeling he's going to impose some sort of national energy tax," said Brown, arguing such a tax or other costs could harm businesses at a fragile time for the economy. He said he supports a "comprehensive energy" program, but not one with cap-and-trade in it.
But Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said yesterday that a comprehensive climate-change bill - with restrictions and pricing mechanisms on carbon pollution - is necessary to both improve the environment and to help wean the nation off of foreign oil.
A comprehensive climate-change bill could create 500,000 jobs via new technologies associated with renewable energy. "We're looking at the mother of markets here," Kerry said of jobs associated with green energy.