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Key Obama Adviser: No Second Thoughts About Moving Health Care Before Climate Bill

Melody Barnes, President Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, said today that the Obama administration does not have second thoughts about pushing health care legislation before a cap-and-trade bill. Some have argued that the administration’s aggressive push to pass a health care bill took the wind out of the sails of efforts to pass a climate bill in the Senate.

Barnes, speaking at The Atlantic’s Green Intelligence Forum today, said that health care reform was one of Obama’s top priorities during the campaign. “One of the things that we heard is that we had to deal with the issue of health care,” she said.

Barnes also demurred on the question of a climate and energy bill’s legislative prospects. “One of the things that I’ve learned is that when you start to put your money down on when Congress will act, you’re going to lose your money,” she said. But she stressed that while Congress was far from “crossing the finish line” on a climate bill, the Obama administration is committed to using its regulatory authority, at the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere, to address climate change.

Barnes expressed frustration with those who oppose measures to address climate change. ”There is no debate globally about the importance of this issue, it’s when we return home that we are pushing and shoving and trying to convince people of the importance of this issue,” she said. But she added that she is seeing a shift in the viewpoint of the American people on climate change, though she acknowledged that many Americans still question the science of climate change.

“Even if you, for whatever reason, don’t believe the science, you’ve got to believe the economic imperative of a clean energy economy,” she said.

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