President Obama will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the White House this afternoon, with the two leaders scheduled to make a statement afterward about new pacts to improve cross-border trade and security.
But Obama’s Republican critics are hoping that during the meeting Harper will pressure the president to approve the Keystone Pipeline project that the administration put the brakes on last month.
The project would pipe oil from Canada through the United States. Supporters have said it would create thousands of jobs, and a decision by the administration originally was expected by the end of this year.
But opponents have said the pipeline could wreak environmental havoc through a proposed new route in Nebraska’s sensitive Sandhills region. Last month, the White House ordered a supplemental environmental assessment of that new route that probably wouldn’t be completed until after the November election, opening the president up to charges that his decision was politically motivated.
On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) cited Harper’s support for the Keystone project and called on Obama to move forward.
“Prime Minister Harper has made clear that if this project is not approved, American competitors, such as China, will gain from our loss,” Boehner said in a statement. “This project is good for the economy, and it’s good for America’s energy security. . . . It is my hope that the President will use today’s meeting with the Prime Minister to announce the project’s approval. If he doesn’t, the House is prepared to act to accelerate the approval so that we can put tens of thousands of Americans back to work.”
Boehner was citing efforts by Congressional Republicans to force the president to act. Some Congressional Democrats, along with labor unions, also have supported the pipeline as a way to create jobs.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski made similar comments pushing Obama on Tuesday.
“It’s my hope that the Prime Minister convinces President Obama to reverse his recent decision to delay the Keystone XL Pipeline,” McConnell said. “The President has said repeatedly that jobs are his top priority, says he wakes up every morning thinking about how he can create jobs. Yet here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America, ready to go, and for some reason he’s suddenly not interested.”
Wednesday marks the 11th meeting between Obama and Harper since Obama took office in 2009.