Obama lobbying against Keystone pipeline

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s deputies are defending his lobbying against a GOP effort in the Senate to fast-track approval of the job-creating Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.

GOP leaders in the Senate are pressing the chamber’s Democratic leadership for a vote on the fast-track bill Mar. 8, but Obama has called Democratic Senators to urge them to vote against the GOP measure.

“The president has communications with some members of Congress… he’s made some phone calls, I’ll confirm that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mar. 8. Carney declined to say how many Senators were called by Obama, or if other Administration leaders called Senators to vote against the fast-track bill.

Carney slammed the GOP’s fast-track bill as an “irresponsible” effort “to curry favor with some political constituency or another.”

Polls show the pipeline is supported by most Americans, and by some Democratic-affiliated groups such as construction unions.

GOP leaders have been hammering away at Obama for blocking the pipeline, which advocates argue would employ thousands of construction workers, deliver more oil to U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, and reduce U.S. reliance on oil from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. (RELATED: Full coverage of the Obama presidency)

“It appears the president remains firmly committed to killing the Keystone pipeline, despite the fact that it enjoys strong support from the American people,” said a statement from House Speaker John Boehner.

“What’s worse, by lobbying against American jobs, President Obama is pushing North American energy closer to China,” added the statement.

If passed, the approval would be a political defeat for Obama, trump his regulatory rejection of the bill, and allow for more oil to be imported from Canada.

White House officials say they want the pipeline approval process to go through the Department of State, which has already delayed approval for the pipeline past the November election. The delay was imposed late 2011 after protests from environmental groups important to Obama’s reelection campaign.

“We will ensure any project receives the important assessment it deserves [at the State Department], and the Administration will base a decision to provide a permit on the completion of that review,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama’s opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is entwined with his ambitious effort to regulate the nation’s energy sector and promote alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass. Congressional approval of the pipeline would be seen a a partial repudiation of his agenda.

Obama’s lobbying was first disclosed by Politico.

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