WH vows to keep Keystone call above 'political influence'

White House press secretary Jay Carney vowed Monday that the Obama administration would not allow the approval process for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline "to be subjected to ideological or political influence."

"I think we have seen political interference in this process already," Carney said. "And that's helped delay a process that by tradition has been run out of the State Department through administrations of both parties, and it's important that everyone let that process be carried out appropriately on the merits."

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Carney was asked about whether the president would veto a Senate bill that would approve the $5.4 billion construction project, currently under administration review, if such a bill advanced. House Republicans have already passed a bill that would automatically approve the project, which is opposed by environmental groups.

"Well, that's a big 'if,' " Carney said in response to the question.

In a vote last year, 56 senators, including 11 Democrats, backed construction of the pipeline, falling just short of the 60 necessary to overcome a filibuster. Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would seek another vote.

“Here’s your chance to work with Republicans on a bipartisan plan to create thousands of private-sector jobs today,” McConnell said.

"Here’s a project that essentially wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime to build, that would have almost no net environmental effect, and that would put thousands of Americans to work right away," McConnell said. "It’s an initiative that’s supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, it is supported by unions, by businesses, by Republicans and independents and even by prominent Democrats — close to 20 in the Senate alone."

On Friday, the State Department released an environmental impact statement finding that not approving the project would do little to slow expansion of oil sands production. The report begins a three-month public review period, and will increase pressure on the administration to make a final decision about the pipeline construction.

"We're gonna let the process run its course, and I think it's important to note, as we did on Friday, that this is a step along the way," Carney said. "It is not the completion of the process." 

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