By Andrew Restuccia - 03/11/12 02:19 PM EDT
Republican claims about the benefits of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are greatly overblown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Sunday.
"It won't lower the price of oil. Construction won't be complete for a long, long time," Reid said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, referring to
the proposed Alberta, Canada, to Texas pipeline. "And under the way it's constructed now, all the oil would be sold elsewhere. We can't have that. When I say elsewhere, I mean to some other country."
The majority leader’s comments come just days after the Senate narrowly defeated a GOP-backed measure to green-light the pipeline. Republicans have vowed to continue pushing the project.
Republicans have made approving the pipeline a top policy priority in recent months, bashing President Obama for rejecting a key permit for the project in January. Obama said his decision was not based on the pipeline’s merits.
He said he was forced to reject the permit under a 60-day timeline for making a decision included in a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.
Republican and industry groups say the pipeline will create more than 20,000 jobs and boost the economy. But critics of the pipeline say those figures are exaggerated and they raise concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions that result from oil sands production, as well as the potential from oil spills along the pipeline route.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Don Stewart, called on Reid Sunday to support approval of the pipeline. He pounced on Reid's comments that construction of the pipeline won't be completed for "a long, long time," arguing that the timeline will allow for the creation of new construction jobs.
"It was encouraging to see Sen. Reid acknowledge today that the Keystone XL pipeline will bring construction jobs to Americans for ‘a long, long time,'" he said in a statement.
"Given that, we hope that he and more of his Democrat colleagues will join Republicans in supporting these American jobs the next time there is a vote. There are already 58 Senators who support moving forward on bringing these jobs to America along with a stable supply of energy from a friendly neighbor. We only need two more."
This story was updated at 12:03 p.m.