Former Dem senator: Obama will eventually green-light Keystone

“I think he’s going to make a decision later, rather than sooner,” Dorgan added, referring to Obama. “You can judge what I mean by that.”

Keystone enjoys bipartisan support in Dorgan's state. Sens. Kent Conrad (D) and John Hoeven (R) both back the pipeline, which is envisioned to carry oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, where production is booming.

Republicans have blasted the president for rejecting a key permit for the pipeline in January. But Obama said the decision was not based on the merits of the project, but on a 60-day, GOP-backed deadline included in legislation to extend the payroll tax credit.

Project developer TransCanada, at the administration’s urging, re-applied for the permit earlier this month. A final decision on the project is not expected until 2013, after the upcoming election.

The White House has denied that it has delayed a final decision for political reasons, arguing instead that it needs more time for proper review.