Hoeven: GOP will move on Keystone in May

If President Obama doesn't make a decision when the clock runs out on the State Department's national interest review of the Keystone XL pipeline, Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty McCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks This week: ObamaCare repeal faces latest setback in Senate MORE (R-N.D.) said Republicans will act.

The GOP is pushing to attach approval of the $5.4 billion pipeline to the unemployment bill now before the Senate.

However, Hoeven said it looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is starting the process to close Republicans out. And if the Keystone XL amendment isn't tethered to the unemployment bill, Hoeven said, Republicans are looking to May as a marker.

The State Department is nearing the end of its final review of the oil-sands pipeline, and the GOP wants an answer from Secretary of State Kerry and Obama as soon as it wraps up.

"State is going to utilize that full timeline … so that would take them right out to about the first part of May," Hoeven said. "So part of our push is to say, 'Ok, first part of May, let's go.' We will see what kind of response we get because there is a lot of support in the Senate."

Hoeven said there are a few options his party might exhaust, including a stand-alone bill that would approve the pipeline outright, or one that puts that administration on the clock.

Obama told governors during a meeting at the White House earlier this year that a decision would be made in the coming months on the pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries.

But Republicans are skeptical, noting that a deadline for a decision has not been set by the administration. Approval of the pipeline would likely help Republicans and some vulnerable pro-energy Democrats come November but put Obama on thin ice with green groups.