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Obama to expedite permit for southern portion of Keystone Pipeline

A Democratic aide on Capitol Hill has confirmed to NBC News that Democrats were notified that President Obama will announce that his administration will hasten the permit process for the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline during his visit to Cushing, Okla., Thursday.

A White House official would not confirm the reports and would only say, "On Thursday the President will reiterate his administration’s commitment to expediting the construction of a pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico, relieving a bottleneck of oil and bringing domestic resources to market."

But Republicans were quick to lash out. Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said: "This is like a governor personally issuing a fishing license...There is only a minor, routine permit needed for this leg of the project. Only a desperate administration would inject the President of the United States into this trivial matter. The President’s attempt to take credit for a pipeline he blocked and personally lobbied Congress against is staggering in its dis-ingenuousness. This portion of the pipeline is being built in spite of the President, not because of him.’”

CNN first broke the news this evening.

In January, Republicans attached the Keystone XL Oil pipeline into legislation that would extend the payroll tax cut. The Obama administration denied the permit for the pipeline (which would extend from Canada to the Gulf Coast) saying there wasn't time to conduct an environmental review.

In February, TransCanada, the company behind Keystone, announced plans to build the southern portion of the pipeline which does not require the same type of presidential permit because it does not cross a border.

The issue has been a political lightning rod with Republicans accusing the president of stifling job growth by not approving the project, and environmentalists protesting the plan which they fear will harm the environment.

On Wednesday, the president will begin a two-day, four-state trip during which he will tout his "all of the above" energy policy. For weeks, Obama has defended his energy policy amid criticism from Republicans who have blamed him for high gas prices.