Boehner Prods Obama on Keystone Pipeline Approval
Days after the State Department issued a report stating that the Keystone XL Pipeline would not have a significant impact on current climate conditions, House Speaker Boehner went on the attack, demanding that President Obama grant final approval to begin construction on the $7 billion project, which would carry oil sands from Canada into the United States where it would be refined in the south.
"We need jobs, and we want energy security and the Keystone pipeline is critical to both of them," Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I recognize the president has friends that are opposed to this, but if we're going to operate our government on sound science, it's time for the president to act."
The House has acted several times over the past three years to pressure the president to approve the project, most recently in a bipartisan vote that won the support of 19 Democrats last May.
The State Department report found that oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta creates about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional crude oil, but concedes that other alternatives to transport the resource to refineries, including trucks, trains or barges, would emit more greenhouse gases than the pipeline.
As Congress grapples over another suspension of the country's statutory debt limit this month, Republicans are weighing whether to attach a pipeline rider to the bill.
Pipeline aside, Boehner refused to speculate whether there are enough Republican votes to successfully attach any single provision to the looming increase, and some Republicans have intimated that herding 218 votes within their ranks for any single proposal is likely out of reach.
While the debt limit is expected to be reached this Friday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has told Congress that the department can take extraordinary measures through the end of the month to buy Congress more time to work out a deal.
Today, Boehner scoffed at a reporter who asked whether "something as complex as the Keystone pipeline" could be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
"Complex? You think the Keystone pipeline is complex?" Boehner exclaimed in disbelief. "It's been under study for five years. We build pipelines everywhere in America, every day. Do you realize there are 200,000 miles of pipelines in the United States and the only reason that the president's involved in the Keystone pipeline is because it crosses an international boundary.
"Listen, we can build it," he continued. "There's nothing complex about the Keystone pipeline. It's time to build it."
Still, Boehner was adamant that his primary objective "is to increase the debt ceiling" to avoid the prospect of defaulting on the country's debt obligations.
"The goal here is to increase the debt ceiling," Boehner said. "Nobody wants to default on our debt, but while we're doing this we ought to do something about…jobs and the economy, about the drivers for our debt."