By Ben Geman - 12/19/11 03:55 PM EST
The deal the Senate overwhelmingly approved Saturday includes a GOP provision that requires a federal permit within 60 days for TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, unless the president determines that it’s not in the national interest.
Administration officials had punted a decision until after the 2012 elections, and have claimed that the 60-day window will likely lead them to reject the project.
But the prospect of a pre-election decision is nonetheless unpalatable to the White House.
The pipeline split parts of Obama’s political base. Environmental groups despise it over greenhouse gases and other concerns and have made killing the project a top priority, but a suite of unions support the project along with Republicans, oil industry groups and some centrist Democrats.
Its rejection could give Republicans a political weapon against Obama in an election year that will be dominated by jobs and the economy.
—This post was updated at 11:02 a.m.