By Ben Geman - 03/25/13 03:49 PM EDT
The House GOP’s political arm is challenging President Obama to distance himself from an email sent by Organizing for Action (OFA) — the advocacy group borne from his reelection campaign — that criticized legislation supporting the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, in a release Monday, seeks political mileage from an OFA email sent to supporters ahead of the Senate budget debate that warned of “anti-environmental” GOP amendments.
The NRCC bashed the OFA message.
“The President must either condemn their email or admit that he agrees with their anti-energy stance,” the NRCC said, citing a BuzzFeed story that said anti-Keystone activists were heartened by OFA’s message.
However, while the OFA email urged opposition GOP-led amendments, it carefully avoided weighing in on the merits of the proposed pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada’s tar sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.
“They'll try to block the EPA's climate change rules, end renewable energy tax credits, and circumvent the State Department's process evaluating the Keystone XL oil pipeline,” OFA said in describing GOP proposals.
The Senate, in the freewheeling battle over its nonbinding budget, ultimately approved — with 17 Democratic votes — a bipartisan amendment in support of Keystone. Lawmakers rejected a separate amendment to thwart federal greenhouse gas regulations.
While the NRCC release is titled “Obama Signaling Keystone Rejection Through OFA,” White House officials insist that no decisions have been made.
In fact, there have been recent hints that the Obama administration just might be leaning in favor of approving the pipeline that green groups strongly oppose.
In widely noted mid-March comments, White House spokesman Josh Earnest sought to downplay green group concerns that the project would worsen climate change.
“There have been thousands of miles of pipelines that have been built while President Obama has been in office, and I think the point is, is that it hasn’t necessarily had a significant impact one way or the other on addressing climate change,” he said aboard Air Force One on March 15, en route to Obama’s energy-focused speech at Argonne National Laboratory.
And Obama, in recent meetings with House and Senate Republicans, said the environmental impact of the project would not be as significant as green groups claim, according to lawmakers who attended.
But he also, some House Republicans said, noted the project would not create as many jobs as some supporters have claimed.
Those comments appear consistent with a recent State Department draft environmental report.
The draft dealt a blow to green groups by concluding that approving or rejecting Keystone would not have much effect on the rate of expansion of carbon-intensive oil sands projects. But it also had lower jobs estimates than business groups have touted.