White House would 'consider' Keystone bill

The White House said Thursday it would "consider" a rider approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline if it was offered in legislation that was able to pass both houses of Congress.

But press secretary Josh Earnest also emphasized that the administration was "committed" to the "firmly established precedent" for such transnational projects, which includes the ongoing review at the State Department.

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"We’ll consider any sort of proposals that are passed by Congress, including a rider like this, that, you’re right, does seem to pretty directly contradict the position that’s been adopted by this administration," Earnest said.

Asked directly if the president would veto legislation requiring approval of the controversial construction project, Earnest sidestepped.

"I guess my point is they haven’t put forth something like that that has gotten the majority of both houses of Congress," Earnest said.

He added that "we'll see" if such legislation could pass in the upcoming Republican-led Senate. 

"At that point, we’ll be able to give you a more specific reaction to it."

Earnest routinely avoids preemptively issuing veto threats against hypothetical legislation.

Environmental groups have rallied against the pipeline, arguing a spill could have a disastrous environmental impact, and its construction would encourage tar sands extraction. But advocates of the project say the pipeline is more eco-friendly than shipping oil by rail, and its construction would create jobs.

The White House has said it would not weigh in on the project until the conclusion of the State Department review. In April, the department announced it was delaying its decision until after the midterm elections because of an ongoing court battle in Nebraska.

Asked about the prospect of Keystone legislation during a post-election press conference Wednesday, Obama said the review process was "moving forward."

"I’m going to let that process play out," the president said. "I’ve given some parameters in terms of how I think about it: Ultimately, is this going to be good for the American people? Is it going to be good for their pocketbook? Is it going to actually create jobs? Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that have been coming down? And is it going to be, on net, something that doesn’t increase climate change that we’re going to have to grapple with?"

 

This post was updated at 3:37 p.m.