MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. —
"Unfortunately, inside of Washington, we still have some climate deniers who shout loud," Obama said. "But they're wasting people's time on a settled debate."
It's Obama who is wasting time, responded Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who argued that if Obama really wanted to promote energy independence, he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline and reverse course on policies cracking down on coal. "There's a way to get America going with regard to energy, but it's not doing any of the things that he's been doing," McConnell said.
His policies unable to generate momentum in Congress, Obama has increasingly gone outside the federal government to press his agenda. He has won commitments from colleges and universities to expand access to more students; he has created innovation hubs that link businesses and education institutions; and he has drawn attention to companies and state and local governments that have increased pay for workers.
Still, that choice of tactics has severely limited what Obama may be able to accomplish, a reality the president acknowledged the night before as he spoke to donors at a fundraiser in La Jolla benefiting House Democrats.
"Regardless of how hard I push, regardless of how many administrative actions I take, we're not going to be able to go where we need to go, and can go, and should go unless I've got a Congress that's willing to work with me," Obama said.
The White House said it chose Wal-Mart because the company has committed to doubling the number of solar energy projects at its stores, Sam's Clubs and distribution centers. But in choosing the giant retailer as the backdrop for his announcement, Obama also triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say low wages paid by Wal-Mart fly in the face of Obama's vaunted push on pay equity.
"What numbskull in the White House arranged this?" former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said on Facebook.
The Wal-Mart location he visited gets about 15 percent of its power from solar panels. Wal-Mart's president, Bill Simon, said. Obama is the first president to visit one of the chain's warehouse stores.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.