Lawmakers shouldn’t “short-circuit” the existing process for evaluating the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama told reporters on Friday with the Senate poised to vote on the controversial project next week.
“I’ve been clear in the past … and my position hasn’t changed, that this is a process that is supposed to be followed,” President Obama said at a press conference in Burma.
The president said that, until an ongoing court case in Nebraska was settled, which could affect the route of the pipeline, it would be difficult for his administration to conduct an accurate study of the effects of construction. And Obama reiterated that he personally would be evaluating the pipeline “on whether or not it accelerates climate change.”
But the president seemed critical of the project, saying he had “to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices.”
“It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the gulf, where it will be sold to everyone else,” Obama said. “It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”
The comments came a day after White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House had a “dim view” of Keystone legislation in Congress and hinted at a presidential veto.
“There have been previous proposals that I expect would be consistent with proposals that have been discussed overnight,” Earnest said. “And in evaluating those earlier proposals, we have indicated that the president's senior advisers at the White House would recommend that he veto legislation like that.”
Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have slammed the threat.
“This is a vote to lower energy costs and create more American jobs,” Boehner said Thursday. “And listen, finding common ground’s not going to be easy. But for the sake of American workers, I hope that the president will sign this bipartisan bill without delay.”
Separately, President Obama defended his recently announced climate pact with China, despite Republican criticism.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was “particularly distressed” by the plan, in which the U.S. pledges to reduce emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025. China, in turn, says its greenhouse emissions will peak by 2030.
“The agreement requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country," McConnell said.
Obama asked why “would anybody be against” a deal committing China for the first time to reducing its carbon emissions.
“I have responsibilities as president not just to current generations but future generations,” Obama said. “The science is indisputable.”