Fourteen senators from both parties - including several who remain undecided on the climate bill - met for more than an hour with Obama, four Cabinet members and White House energy adviser Carol Browner.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama wants a comprehensive bill that includes a cap on emissions of pollution blamed for global warming.
"The president's strong belief is that in order to transition ourselves away from our dependence on foreign oil and into a clean-energy economy, that we need a strong incentive to do that," Gibbs said.
A bill sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., aims to cut emissions of pollution-causing greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020. The bill would abandon a broad "cap-and-trade" approach to reducing carbon pollution. Instead it would apply different carbon controls to different sectors of the economy.
Kerry called the meeting "terrific" and said Obama "made it very, very clear that he believes it is critical to have a price on carbon," a move that some Republicans and business groups oppose because it would raise the price of oil and coal.
Kerry said lawmakers were "moving very rapidly" to draft a bill that could be on the Senate floor this spring.
Kerry and other lawmakers are looking at cutting the nation's output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by targeting, in separate ways, three major sources of emissions: electric utilities, transportation and industry.
Power plants would face an overall cap on emissions that would become more stringent over time. Motor fuel may be subject to a carbon tax whose proceeds could help electrify the U.S. transportation sector. And industrial facilities would be exempted from a cap on emissions for several years before it is phased in.
The legislation would also expand domestic oil and gas drilling offshore and provide federal assistance for constructing nuclear power plants and carbon sequestration and storage projects at coal-fired utilities.
Lieberman called the meeting very important.
"We've not been in the same room together talking about what are our shared goals, which is to make America energy independent, to create new jobs and reduce air pollution," he said.
Graham said he believes a comprehensive bill is the only one that can pass the Senate.
"There's not 60 votes doing energy only for offshore drilling. There's not 60 votes for nuclear power the way I would like. Only when you marry up climate change - cleaning up the air - with energy independence do you get" to 60 votes in the Senate, he said.
"If you're a Republican, and you believe we should 'drill, baby, drill,' now's your chance," Graham said.
Beside Kerry, Graham and Lieberman, others attending the meeting were Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Barbara Boxer of California, Maria Cantwell of Washington state, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Republicans who attended were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, George LeMieux of Florida, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Earlier Tuesday, Kerry, Graham and Lieberman met with a group of business leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, Nuclear Energy Institute and National Association of Manufacturers.