OBAMA ‘VERY STRONG’ ON CARBON LIMITS…. As promised, the White House hosted a key meeting earlier today with a large Senate contingent, all in the hopes of crafting a climate/energy bill that can overcome Republican obstructionism. The key question for many of us was pretty straightforward: can President Obama step up and push for cap-and-trade?

Yes, he can.

Leading Senate advocates of climate change legislation emerged from a White House meeting proclaiming that President Barack Obama offered firm support for including greenhouse gas curbs in the broad energy package slated for Senate debate this summer.

“The president was very clear about putting a price on carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said outside the White House after the roughly 90-minute meeting between Obama and a bipartisan group of roughly 20 senators.

Carbon pricing is shorthand for cap-and-trade or other methods for creating a cost for emitting greenhouse gases. “[Obama] was very strong about the need to put a price on carbon and make polluters pay,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who authored a sweeping climate and energy bill with Kerry.

Whether the president’s urging will translate into Senate votes remains to be seen, but it’s heartening to learn that Obama isn’t backing off. A couple of weeks ago, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told Roll Call, “At the end of the day, my guess is [the White House] won’t push [cap-and-trade] that hard.”

Today suggests otherwise. If the White House were prepared to scale back its expectations, and move away from cap-and-trade, that would have been apparent today. I obviously wasn’t in the room, but according to senators who were, Obama did exactly what we needed him to do to keep the measure alive.

Of course, if Republicans stand united against any and all efforts on carbon emissions, it’s a moot point — Democrats simply won’t be able to overcome GOP obstructionism. But with the president making the right push today, cap-and-trade is still very much on the table.

Update: Further confirmation from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a cap-and-trade supporter, who told Greg Sargent that the president “made it clear that a price on carbon is a very powerful instrument.” The senator added that Obama “said it’s a very important tool and one we should thoroughly explore,” and that the president emphasized the issue “a number of times.” Merkley concluded, “I don’t think he would have done so if that wasn’t very important to him.”

On a related note, the White House issued a post-meeting statement, reiterating its backing for “putting a price on pollution.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.