Senate Republicans blamed the defeat of a measure that would have allowed Congress to greenlight cross-border drilling without presidential approval on President Obama’s calling Senate Democrats urging them not to vote for it.
The amendment, which was defeated by a 56-42 vote, was sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and would have given Congress the authority to approve construction of a portion of the Keystone pipeline project that passes through Canada.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested the amendment was four votes shy of the 60-vote threshold because of President Obama’s efforts to dissuade senators from voting for it.
“President Obama's personal pleas to wavering senators may have tipped the balance against this legislation," McConnell said. "When it comes to delays over Keystone, anyone looking for a culprit should now look no further than the Oval Office."
Earlier today, White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama personally called Senate Democrats regarding the amendment, which was tacked on to a multi-billion-dollar transportation bill that has received bipartisan support. Carney refused, however, to “get into individual names or length of conversation.”
He accused Republicans of playing politics with the issue, noting that TransCanada has not yet identified a pipeline route that would pass muster with the state of Nebraska (even though the Hoeven amendment would have still made the pipeline contingent on an environmental review of the Nebraska portion).
“The president believes that it is wrong to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed, a fact that the company involved affirmed again this week, that they have not yet identified a route for this possible pipeline,” Carney said.
Thursday morning, Obama’s calls to Senate Democrats quickly became a rallying point for House Republicans seeking to paint Obama as doing everything he can to obstruct development of the Keystone project.
“According to reports the President of the United States is personally lobbying senators to oppose a Keystone XL pipeline amendment in the United State Senate today,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a briefing with reporters. He added, “By personally lobbying against the Keystone pipeline, it means the president of the United States is lobbying for sending North American energy to China and lobbying against American jobs."