President Obama would not budge on the Keystone pipeline ahead of a key House vote on Friday, indicating during a press conference that he wants to let a review process run its course even as lawmakers threaten to send a bill fast-tracking the project to his desk.
The president spoke during a joint press conference in Burma with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
As the House prepares to vote on the pipeline — and the Senate is set to vote next week — Obama made clear his position has not changed.
Obama said his administration believes the project should be judged on the basis of whether it accelerates climate change. Obama also insisted the pipeline would not be a “massive jobs bill” and would have no effect on U.S. gas prices.
The looming vote will mark the ninth time it has been voted on in the House as lawmakers look to finally secure approval of the delayed proposal after numerous environmental reviews, legal challenges to its route and politics.
But the pipeline was only put on the lame-duck Congress agenda because Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu pushed it on the Senate side — in an apparent effort to not only boost the energy industry, but boost her own re-election bid in a tough runoff next month. Landrieu’s race for re-election goes to a runoff next month against GOP-hopeful Bill Cassidy. Landrieu is considered an underdog in that election.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, traveling with Obama in Myanmar, told reporters that the president takes a "dim view" of legislative efforts to force action on the project. Earnest stopped short of threatening a veto, but reiterated Obama’s preference for evaluating the pipeline through a long-stalled State Department review.
Obama has repeatedly ordered such reviews under pressure from environmental groups, who say the project would contribute to climate change.
Senate Republicans and several moderate Democrats have pushed for the project to be approved for years, and backers of the project got a major win after Republicans took control of the Senate. Supporters say the construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs.
But the project divides Democrats, with environmentalists in opposition while some unions as well as energy-state and business-minded lawmakers support it.
The Sierra Cub issued a statement opposing the measure, as did Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who urged Obama to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
Supporters of the measure appeared to have at least 58 of the 60 votes they would need for approval next week. That included all 45 Republicans as well as 13 Democrats, among them Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, whose office confirmed his support during the day.
Another obstacle in the pipeline is getting approval for it to go through Nebraska.
The administration has put off announcing any decision pending a Supreme Court ruling in Nebraska on a challenge to the law that allowed the route of the pipeline to be set.
The Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision is expected before the end of the year.
That case involves a lawsuit filed by landowners and activists opposed to the project who are seeking to overturn a 2012 state law that allowed Republican Gov. Dave Heineman to approve the pipeline’s route through the state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report