Obama talks small businesses, energy, Wikileaks, judges

OBAMA TALKS SMALL BUSINESSES, ENERGY, WIKILEAKS, JUDGES…. President Obama met this afternoon with the congressional leadership from both parties and both chambers today, and spoke afterwards about the agenda.

He began by endorsing the small-business-incentives bill that, according to the leadership, will be the next bill considered by the Senate, and may be voted on this week. The president transitioned to energy:

“We also talked about the need to move forward on energy reform. The Senate is now poised to act before the August recess, advancing legislation to respond to the BP oil spill and create new clean energy jobs.

“That legislation is an important step in the right direction. But I want to emphasize it’s only the first step. And I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation, because if we’ve learned anything from the tragedy in the Gulf, it’s that our current energy policy is unsustainable.

“And we can’t afford to stand by as our dependence on foreign oil deepens, as we keep on pumping out the deadly pollutants that threaten our air and our water and the lives and livelihoods of our people. And we can’t stand by as we let China race ahead to create the clean energy jobs and industries of the future. We should be developing those renewable energy sources, and creating those high-wage, high-skill jobs right here in the United States of America.

“That’s what comprehensive energy and climate reform would do. And that’s why I intend to keep pushing this issue forward.”

I know a comprehensive bill probably won’t see the light of day for several years, but it’s nevertheless nice to hear a reminder that “our current energy policy is unsustainable,” as the BP spill helps demonstrate. (The president has, by the way, been saying this for quite a while. It just hasn’t gotten much attention.)

As for the Wikileaks story:

“I also urged the House leaders to pass the necessary funding to support our efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I know much has been written about this in recent days as a result of the substantial leak of documents from Afghanistan covering a period from 2004 to 2009.

“While I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan; indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.

“So let me underscore what I’ve said many times: For seven years, we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region, the region from which the 9/11 attacks were waged and other attacks against the United States and our friends and allies have been planned.

“That’s why we’ve substantially increased our commitment there, insisted upon greater accountability from our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developed a new strategy that can work, and put in place a team, including one of our finest generals, to execute that plan. Now we have to see that strategy through.”

And one of my personal favorites, the federal judiciary:

“Finally, during our meeting today, I urged Senator McConnell and others in the Senate to work with us to fill the vacancies that continue to plague our judiciary. Right now, we’ve got nominees who’ve been waiting up to eight months to be confirmed as judges. Most of these folks were voted out of committee unanimously, or nearly unanimously, by both Democrats and Republicans. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed that they were qualified to serve. Nevertheless, some in the minority have used parliamentary procedures time and again to deny them a vote in the full Senate.

“If we want our judicial system to work — if we want to deliver justice in our courts — then we need judges on our benches. And I hope that in the coming months, we’ll be able to work together to ensure a timelier process in the Senate.”