President Obama today called for an examination of federal laws to guarantee that people affected by the Gulf oil spill and any future calamities are better protected, as the spill continues to have a ripple effect on his agenda.
"It's going to be important that based on facts, based on experts, based on a thorough examination of what went wrong here and where things have gone right but also where things have gone wrong, that we update the laws to make sure that the people in the Gulf -- the fishermen, the hotel owners, families who are dependent for their livelihoods in the Gulf -- that they are all made whole and that we are in a much better position to respond to any such crisis in the future," the president said after a meeting with the bipartisan leadership from the House and Senate where the BP oil spill was at the top of the agenda.
Obama said the group agreed that such a review needs to occur, adding that existing laws "have not been adequate for a crisis of this magnitude."
Obama met for an hour in the Cabinet Room with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
The meeting with congressional leadership was the first in a series the president will have today at the White House centered on the Gulf oil spill and the broader issue of the nation's energy policies.
Obama met privately with most of the families of the 11 oil rig workers who were killed during the April 20 explosion.
The White House said that the president expressed his condolences and told the families that he, first lady Michelle Obama and his entire administration supported them and will do so long after the cameras are gone.
Obama also will meet with business leaders and energy experts, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, to talk about energy reform.
Obama again used the immediate crisis in the Gulf of Mexico to make the case for movement on a comprehensive energy plan.
Obama said last week that the time has come to "aggressively accelerate" the nation's transition to a clean-energy economy.
The president said today that while the obvious immediate task is containing the Gulf oil spill, there needs to be greater effort put into developing 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."
"We are not yet that leader, and that's what I want us to be," he said.
After the meeting, Republicans said they were uninterested in working with Democrats if they are "seizing on the oil spill" as a rationale for passing cap-and-trade legislation.
"We're perfectly happy to work with the administration on legislation that might be appropriate directly related to the spill in the Gulf," Senate minority leader McConnell, R-Ky., said. "What I believe 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, if you will, for passing a national energy tax."
McConnell said it is "completely and totally" unrelated to the environmental catastrophe in the Gulf.