By Alexander Bolton - 08/10/13 10:00 AM EDT
Republicans are seeking to regain the political offensive by exploiting divisions in the Democratic Party over President Obama’s energy policies.
“The president is so out of touch with unemployed Americans that he thinks tens of thousands of Keystone XL construction jobs are a ‘blip,’ and ‘not a jobs plan,’” Scott said.
Obama has repeatedly questioned projections that suggest construction of the controversial pipeline would boost employment in states like as Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“Republicans have said this would be a big jobs generator,” Obama told The New York Times in a recent interview. “There is no evidence that that’s true. The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline.”
The president said once built, it would likely account for about between 50 and 100 permanent jobs.
Republicans put the estimate much higher.
“The administration continues to block projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline, which could support 40,000 new jobs,” Scott said.
Scott also accused the administration of “actively” blocking new American energy production.”
Energy policy has been a divisive subject in the Senate Democratic caucus.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) last month grilled Obama during a private meeting over his administration’s protracted consideration of the pipeline, arguing that it has support from a strong majority of the Senate.
During that meeting, Obama showed what Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an opponent of the pipeline, called “a healthy skepticism” about the economic arguments supporting it.
Many Democrats support the project, despite the strong opposition of environmental groups.
In March, 17 Senate Democrats voted for an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) endorsing the pipeline.
Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Landrieu, who all face tough elections next year, voted for the measure, which passed by a margin of 62 to 37.
Scott also criticized Obama for planning to restrict carbon emissions, a widely recognized cause of global climate change, through executive regulations.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in June said Obama had “declared a war on coal” and called his regulatory agenda “not reasonable.”
Scott also dinged the president for the slow pace of energy extraction on federal lands.
“Today, President Obama has effectively reimposed an offshore moratorium, blocking access to American oil and natural gas resources, preventing the creation of tens of thousands of American jobs and continuing our reliance on foreign oil,” he said.
He cited a study claiming that expanded offshore drilling could create 7,500 jobs and add $2.2 billion of economic activity to his home state.
He said Obama’s “failed leadership on energy policy” would drive up the costs of food, driving and utilities
“Every second your refrigerator runs, the electricity to power it costs more because of the lack of an all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Scott said.
Some Democrats, like Begich and Landrieu, support expanded offshore drilling. Others, like Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Whitehouse are staunchly opposed.
Scott’s criticism of Obama follows a salvo he fired at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday. The freshman senator rebuked Reid for implying that Republicans may oppose Obama’s agenda because of his race.
"It's been obvious that they're doing everything they can to make him fail," Reid told KNR radio. "And I hope, I hope — and I say this seriously — I hope that's based on substance and not the fact that he's African-American."
“I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing — they are hurting hardworking American families,” Scott said in a separate statement Friday.
Scott, who replaced former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in January, is the only African-American member of the Senate Republican Conference.