GOP senator: Let's get moving on Keystone

Sen. John Hoeven pressed President Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline in the GOP’s weekly address, suggesting the project would both help the economy and bolster national security.

Hoeven said the pipeline – which he called “the largest shovel-ready project in the country” – would put more people back to work, lower Americans’ energy bill and strengthen the U.S. hand against China and Iran.

“It’s hard to imagine a project that is more in the national interest and the interest of the American people,” said Hoeven, a freshman senator from North Dakota.

Hoeven’s address comes as the Republicans in both chambers of Congress have been trying to up the pressure on the White House over Keystone, which would transport oil sands from Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

Under the payroll tax deal hashed out late last year, the White House has until Feb. 21 to decide whether to approve the project.

Obama administration officials have warned that the 60-day timeline will leave them little choice but to reject the project. The pipeline is also opposed by many liberals in Congress and environmental groups, who have broached the idea of a legal challenge should the White House approve the project.

With that in mind, House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office has released a video, among other things, to lobby Obama over the pipeline.

And Hoeven is working with GOP colleagues on legislation that would give Congress the final say on the pipeline, wresting that power away from the president.

In his weekly address, Hoeven pooh-poohs the State Department’s assertions that 60 days would not be enough time to reach a decision on the pipeline.

The senator also says the project would help ease concerns about rising gas prices, and also noted Iran's recent threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key channel for the transportation of oil.

Republicans have also argued in recent days that China would gain a leg up on the U.S. if the pipeline is not approved, a point also hammered home by Hoeven.

“The point is this: If the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t built, Canadian oil will still be produced and transported—700,000 barrels a day of it—but instead of coming to our refineries in the United States, instead of creating jobs for our people, instead of reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keeping down the cost of fuel for American consumers—that oil will be sent to China,” the North Dakota senator said.

With the November elections now less than 10 months away, Hoeven also tried to cast the Keystone decision as more proof that the White House and Democrats are no friends to the business community.

“The President and his administration need to join us in creating the kind of legal, tax, and regulatory environment that empowers private investment,” Hoeven said. “That’s the approach that will grow our economy and get people back to work. That’s the approach that will reduce our deficit and debt, and strengthen our nation.”