Last month, Republicans in Congress succeeded in getting a provision attached to a bill extending the payroll tax cut that forces the Obama administration to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline within 60 days. Now Obama has until Feb. 21 to issue a verdict on the proposed 1,661-mile pipeline from Canada to Texas.
But in reality, Republicans gave Obama an easy out here. In order to approve the pipeline, he'd have to railroad the review process, which has not been completed yet. He'd also have to ignore a bunch of our nation's fundamental environmental laws, like the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Obama could just say that he can't approve the project because they forced him to violate other laws.
Now Republicans are at work on yet another way to get around the White House on Keystone. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R) released a draft bill that would take away the president's authority on the pipeline if he doesn't grant his approval. Basically, Republicans in Congress forced Obama to make a decision, and if he decides in a way they don't like, they're going to ignore him anyway.
Reuters reports that Hoeven is working on the new legislation with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. Richard Lugar (Ind.), David Vitter (La.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mike Johanns (Neb.). The bill would allow work on the pipeline to begin right away—environmental laws be damned. (It would, however, let Nebraska continue its negotiation with TransCanada, the company that wants to build the massive pipeline, on an alternative route through that state.)
Hoeven also held a press conference with the president of TransCanada—just in case it wasn't clear whose side he's on.