Like postponement of the individual mandate and acceleration of the troop-withdrawal schedule for Afghanistan, President Obama’s decision to delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline personifies politicization of nearly every aspect of governance. Announcing the move on a Friday — Good Friday, to boot — is the traditional way of trying to dump bad news when voters aren’t looking. In this case, both Democrats and Republicans have every reason to be angry.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) bashed the president: “It is crystal clear that the Obama administration is simply not serious about American energy and American jobs. I guess he wasn’t serious about having a pen and a phone, either. At a time of high unemployment in the Obama economy, it’s a shame that the administration has delayed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline for years. Here’s the single greatest shovel-ready project in America – one that could create thousands of jobs right away – but the President simply isn’t interested. Apparently radical activists carry more weight than Americans desperate to get back on the job. More jobs left behind in the Obama economy.”
Even Democrats were furious, clearly rattled that voters would come after them for a non-decision that affects thousands of potential jobs.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well over five year long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement.
Republican Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry called the decision “shameful,” noting that another spring construction season will come and go without the project. The administration had been in the middle of a 90-day review period for federal agencies assessing an environmental study from the State Department.
But the State Department said Friday it is giving agencies “additional time” to weigh in, in part because of ongoing litigation before the Nebraska Supreme Court which could affect the pipeline’s route. If the route changes, officials made clear the State Department reserves the right to conduct another environmental impact study to include more public comments, which could delay the process more. . . .
Keystone supporters in Congress were furious with the decision. Just days earlier, 11 Democratic senators had written to President Obama urging him to make a final decision by the end of May, complaining that the process “has been exhaustive in its time, breadth and scope.”
With the extension, the administration effectively has turned down that request. One of the letter’s signatories, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is in a tough re-election fight this year, said the decision amounts to an “indefinite delay” of the project.
“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” she said. “By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there is a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever. There are 42,000 jobs, $20 billion in economic activity and North America’s energy security at stake.”
Landrieu, as chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also threatened to “take decisive action to get this pipeline permit approved.”
Of course, just as with Iran sanctions that enjoy huge bipartisan support, Majority Leader Harry Reid ( D-Nev.) isn’t about to let the Senate cast a binding vote on the issue. GOP Senate challengers have one more argument for changing the majority party if nothing else. Democrats will get to vote on measures they want. The refusal to decide suggests how deep the split is on the Democratic side between elite pro-environmentalists and blue-collar workers, who used to be the mainstay of the party.
As for the president’s left-wing base, another delay in the decision doesn’t rule out the possibility that after the election and the billionaire donors’ money is collected and spent, the administration will throw a bone to Big Labor and approve the pipeline. Such a move would save Hillary Clinton from tough questions about whether she, too, would kowtow to Tom Steyer and other billionaire environmentalists over the interests of working people in places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. But this, for now, is about the president and his penchant for subsuming critical policy decisions to pure partisan politics. After five years, you’d think he would finally rise to the occasion and act in the interests of all Americans rather than in the interests of the Democratic Party’s left wing. Too bad for Harry Reid and company that Obama’s obsession with his left wing entails throwing red-state lawmakers overboard.