President Obama Personally Lobbying Dems to Reject Keystone XL Amendment

Erika Johnsen

3/8/2012 12:40:00 PM - Erika Johnsen

First, according to the White House's baloney on the matter, Republicans "forced" President Obama to deny the Keystone XL pipeline. But then, in a move that the WSJ aptly titled President Obama's Keystone jujitsu, he applauded TransCanada's efforts to forge ahead with a partial Keystone side-project:

TransCanada announced that it plans to break up the $7.6 billion project into several stand-alone parts, beginning immediately with a leg connecting Cushing, Oklahoma with the Gulf Coast. The original plan was to connect U.S. refiners with Alberta's oil sands crude and other Canadian and U.S. energy resources, but to mollify the environmental lobby Mr. Obama's State Department refused to issue the cross-border permits last month.

Now, apparently, it's time to mollify the Administration's union supporters that favored the thousands of jobs that the shovel-ready Keystone would have thrown off—not to mention the many not-so-stupid voters who've noticed Mr. Obama's antijobs politics. The White House immediately put out a statement claiming that "The President welcomes today's news" and even that "we support the company's interest in proceeding with this project."

It isn't too difficult to figure out what's going on here: the President wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He knows that the Keystone pipeline will create jobs, which both normal Americans and his union base favor; but, he doesn't want to take official ownership of approving the project, and risk the ire of the environmental lobby.

Republicans tacked an amendment onto the current Senate highway bill that would fast-track the Keystone pipeline, and in an effort to avoid having to force his hand, President Obama made personal calls to particular Democrats discouraging them from voting for the measure:

President Barack Obama, seeking to head off an election-year showdown over energy policy, has been calling wavering Senate Democrats to lobby against a Republican measure that would force approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, according to a Democratic aide.

Ahead of a vote expected as soon as today, the president has made personal appeals to Democrats from Midwestern states, where many of the jobs would be created by building TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s pipeline from Canada’s oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations.

At issue is an amendment to legislation funding transportation projects from Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota that would authorize construction of the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) pipeline. Environmental reviews required by law prior to construction would be deemed satisfied.

Huh. It's kind of funny that the environmental reviews required by law, were satisfied, until somehow, magically, they weren't.

Addendum: As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell points out, President Obama gets zero points for logical consistency on this one.

The vote should happen this afternoon.

Update: Sen. Jim Inhofe illuminates what happened on the floor today, when Senate Democrats decided to vote on behalf of the President, instead of on behalf of their constituents.

"Today Senate Democrats decided to stand with President Obama and his far left global warming allies by voting against the construction of the Keystone pipeline," Senator Inhofe said. "I hope these Democrats feel good about saying 'no' to the tens of thousands of jobs, lower gas prices, and the energy security that the pipeline would bring.  For all his phony reelection rhetoric about an 'all-of-the above' approach, Politico reported today that President Obama has been pressuring Senate Democrats to withdraw their support.  Instead of putting American jobs and gas prices first, he's clearly trying to avoid a PR disaster, as several members of his own party have come to understand the importance of the Keystone pipeline for our economy."