By Jamie Klatell - 12/17/11 11:46 AM EST
The Obama administration has not approved the Keystone oil pipeline because doing so would anger "extreme environmental groups" that the president is counting on in his reelection campaign, Sen. John Barrasso said Saturday.
"After repeatedly saying, ‘we can’t wait’ for American job creation, the president now wants Americans to wait on the jobs from the pipeline until after next year’s election," Barrasso said in the Republican weekly address.
The Obama administration delaying a decision on the pipeline project, which would deliver oil sands crude from Canada to Texas, until 2013, but Republicans have sought to force the president to make a decision sooner.
Senate leaders on Friday agreed to a two-month backstop measure to extend payroll tax relief, which included House-passed language to expedite a decision on the pipeline's construction.
"The president has threatened to veto this bill because the pipeline is opposed by a number of extreme environmental groups," Barrasso said. “These are the same groups who in the past have supported the President and he needs their support for his reelection."
Democrats said Friday the practical effect of the Keystone language in the payroll tax extension would be to kill the project.
A senior Obama administration official noted that the president said he would not accept an attempt by Congress to mandate construction before adequate review of health and safety regulations.
Officials at the State Department, which has authority over approving the project, said they would not be able to conduct the necessary review if given only 60 days, the timeline set by House Republicans.