President Barack Obama is intervening in a Senate fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and personally lobbying Democrats to reject an amendment calling for its construction, according to several sources familiar with the talks.
The White House lobbying effort, including phone calls from the president to Democrats, signals that the vote could be close when it heads to the floor Thursday. The president is trying to defeat an amendment that would give election-year fodder to his Republican critics who have accused him of blocking a job-creating energy project at a time of high gas prices.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), states that Obama would have no role in such cross-border permitting decisions since, in this case, the pipeline would originate in Canada. The measure would need 60 votes to pass, and Obama has already lost two Democrats who back the proposal—Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu [LA]—and is at risk of losing more moderates and vulnerable Democrats.
Obama rejected an earlier effort by House Republicans to advance construction on Keystone, following an uproar from liberal activists and environmental groups.
There is substantial bipartisan support for the pipeline.
The 1,700-mile pipeline would run from Northwest Canada to the United States’ Gulf Coast. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was "profoundly disappointed" in Obama’s decision, and has suggested that unless the United States approves Keystone XL soon, Canada will divert the oil in order to sell it China.