House Republicans are putting more pressure on President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, unveiling a clock that counts the number of days since the president signed legislation requiring a speedy verdict on the project.
Obama signed broad payroll tax cut legislation last month that includes a GOP-backed provision requiring him to make a decision on the pipeline within 60 days.
“Will President Obama choose jobs and energy security for America?” says the countdown clock unveiled Wednesday by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “America is waiting for President Obama's decision.”
The countdown clock marks the latest push by Republicans to pressure Obama to approve the project, which would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Republicans and other proponents of the project say it will boost the economy and create jobs. But critics of the pipeline — who also raise concerns about Keystone’s effect on the environment — say those assertions are wildly overstated.
Both the GOP and the White House will spend the next several weeks trying to win the messaging war over the controversial project, as both sides face high political stakes in the fight.
Obama risks backlash from key union supporters if he rejects the project, but faces the ire of environmental groups if he approves it.
Republicans, meanwhile, stand to score a political victory if Obama green-lights the pipeline. But their successful effort to force a decision could backfire if the president rejects the pipeline and pins blame on the GOP for rushing the review.
The State Department, which is leading a multi-agency review of the proposed pipeline, has said the administration will have little choice but to reject Keystone because the expedited timeline pushed by Republicans will not leave enough time to conduct the necessary review.
Obama earlier this year delayed a final verdict on the pipeline until after the 2012 election by calling for review of alternative routes around the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska.
Administration and White House officials have echoed that line. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said earlier this month on Twitter that the GOP-backed Keystone provision “simply shortens the review process in a way that virtually guarantees that the pipeline will NOT be approved.”