January 14, 2015


A Win-Win-Win-Win Situation : The Republicans can't lose on the Keystone pipeline. But if Obama plays it right, he could also triumph. (Josh Voorhees, 1/14/15, Slate)

Congressional Republicans remain on track for their first major legislative victory of 2015. The push to greenlight construction of the Keystone XL pipeline cleared its biggest procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, making its passage in the coming weeks all but inevitable. Republicans are in a win-win situation here: If the president signs the bill into law, the GOP can point to the pipeline as proof they're delivering on their campaign promises. If Obama vetoes, he hands Republicans ammunition to argue ahead of 2016 that it's the Democrats who are responsible for Washington's gridlock. Either way, the new GOP-controlled Congress will be off to a running start. [...]

On the rare occasion Obama has spoken publicly about the 1,700-mile pipeline, he's been careful to make his veto threat about the process, not the pipeline. He has maintained that the State Department simply needs more time to weigh the economic pros against the environmental cons of a project that would carry 830,000 barrels of carbon-heavy crude per day from Alberta's oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. That wait-and-see approach has left Obama in an awkward position--one that's drawn fire from pipeline supporters and opponents alike--but has arguably proved to be politically beneficial to date. But now that Republicans have the votes to pass their fast-tracking bill, the president can't afford to hide behind the bureaucratic red tape of his own creation any longer.

Pipeline opponents argue that the project would significantly accelerate the development of oil sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet. Industry groups and their more business-focused friends, meanwhile, can't imagine putting climate concerns above the nation's near-term economic and national security interests. They contend that the oil deposits will be exploited one way or the other, so the United States might as well get in on the action.

So what should Obama do once the Keystone bill reaches his desk? He could try to trade his approval of the project for something else on his environmental wish list. As the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza has pointed out, the pipeline makes for the perfect bargaining chip for Obama: It's a top priority for Republicans' but toward the bottom of the president's list of concerns. While Obama's clearly not a fan of the project, he also appears skeptical of climate advocates' doomsaying when it comes to the pipeline's construction.

...the possibility that the UR considers the pipeline to have some marginal utility, but not enough to be worth alienating his base.  In that case, he can hand the Left a Potemkin victory by vetoing the stanbd-alone bill but thenm "reluctantly" accepting the budget bill the GOP will attach it to.  Then everyone wins.

Posted by at January 14, 2015 1:44 PM

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