By Russell Berman - 03/08/12 05:38 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and other Republicans are sharply criticizing President Obama for personally lobbying Democratic senators to oppose a Senate amendment to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
“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,” the Speaker told reporters Thursday.
Republicans have seized on the debate over the oil pipeline from Canada to hammer Obama on energy. They say construction of the pipeline will create up to 20,000 American jobs.
Boehner said he was particularly disappointed in the news because Obama had indicated to him in a meeting last week that he wanted to work with the GOP on an “all-of-the-above” energy agenda.
“Now if we’re going to have bipartisan action on energy, the Keystone pipeline is an obvious place to start,” Boehner said. “The White House owes the American people an explanation.”
The White House blasted the Keystone amendment to a Senate highway bill, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) predicted would fail.
"The president believes that it is wrong to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday when asked about Obama's phone calls. He noted that an alternative route for Keystone through an ecologically sensitive area of Nebraska has not yet been determined.
"Despite claims that this pipeline would somehow solve the pain at the pump today, the company has said it would take years before a single drop of oil would flow through the pipeline," Carney said.
Carney stressed that Obama's January decision to reject a key permit for the Keystone pipeline was not based on the merits, but instead on a GOP-backed, 60-day deadline included in a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
"The president obviously has communications with members of Congress with some regularity,” Carney said, calling GOP efforts to approve the pipeline “purely ideological and political.”
“We have made these points very clear. We will continue to make these points very clear and we certainly expect that Congress will, at least we hope, act in an appropriate fashion.”
Other Republicans also heaped criticism on the president’s calls to senators.
“This is ridiculous,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. “The president should stop lobbying against it and get behind this critical job-creating pipeline.”
The news that Obama was personally lobbying senators on the measure was first reported Thursday by Politico.
—This story was updated at 1:32 p.m.