I Was Wrong about Obama and the Keystone Pipeline

For several years, as the Obama administration kept kicking the Keystone pipeline can down the road, I said over and over again that there’s no way in hell he doesn’t approve the pipeline. I was sure he was just waiting until after the election to do it. Turns out I was absolutely wrong:

President Barack Obama on Tuesday swiftly delivered on his vow to veto a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, leaving the long-debated project in limbo for another indefinite period.

The Senate received Obama’s veto message and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell immediately countered by announcing the Republican-led chamber would attempt to overturn the veto by March 3.

I thought there was no way he would veto it because there’s a big moneyed interest that wants it and no moneyed interest that opposed it. Environmental groups don’t have even a small fraction of the money that the Koch brothers and other oil companies have and that is almost always a reliable predictor of the outcome of a fight over public policy. If there’s big money on one side and not on the other, the big money side wins nearly every time. But apparently not this time, at least not with Obama.

Congress will now try to override his veto, which isn’t entirely farfetched because a lot of centrist Democrats support the project along with virtually every Republican. They don’t need all that many Democrats to buck the president to override the veto. I think the votes will be close but will ultimately fail by a slim margin. But it’s clear I was wrong about Obama. He wasn’t waiting until after the election to green light the pipeline, he was waiting until after the election to kill it.

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  • Randomfactor

    Not so sure you were wrong. The bill Congress said was a diminution of Executive power, and Obama’s pretty steadfastly maintained the executive against limitations.

    I want to see the Executive branch turn down the pipeline for environmental reasons. That’s yet to come.

  • eric

    Random I think you are correct in a broader sense too: we can probably expect Obama to veto virtually everything, regardless of his position on the main subject of a bill, because from here on out they are probably all going to include some really nasty riders.

    Case in point: even the DHS funding bill has a nasty immigration rider, which nobody expects Obama will tolerate. Its going to come down to the wire to see whether the Senate GOP can convince their own members to remove it for the sake of passing the bill.

  • theguy

    “I want to see the Executive branch turn down the pipeline for environmental reasons.”

    President Obama’s veto message he sent mentioned the environment as a reason, along with national security and other concerns, but the main reason does seem to be executive power.

    I still think President Obama did the right thing. The only way I see Keystone getting approved is if the next president is a Republican.

  • paulparnell

    Things have changed fundamentally. The current glut of oil has killed the reason to build the pipe line. It probably does not make sense in the current market. I have always believed that the pipe line would be a financial and political failure in the long run anyway. Republicans could be dodging a bullet here.

  • Synfandel

    The bill’s purpose was to fast-track the pipeline’s approval. The president’s veto has simply said that the project still has to go through the regular approval process, including a State Department review of the project’s ‘national interest’ implications.

    By refusing to rush the approval, President Obama might simply be ensuring that, after he has ultimately approved the project, he can say that it passed all of the required strategic, economic, and environmental tests. He’ll have political cover against his critics who oppose the pipeline.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R2XG9CnOj8 Olav

    Synfandel, thanks for that clarification.

  • lofgren

    I tend to think he vetoed it precisely because he knows they have enough votes to override the veto. Now democrats in states that are purple enough can say that they opposed the President’s irresponsible actions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000827478206 jimbaerg

    “and no moneyed interest that opposed it.”

    Are you sure about that? I’ve heard that there is at least one railway that is getting a lot of income by moving oil that is funding opposition to the pipeline.

    I now think it would be very hard to find a side on any controversy in which NO ONE has a financial interest in supporting it. If the facts support that side the financially interested parties will probably be smart enough to use those facts in their arguments.

    Look at whether the arguments for a given position use falsehoods & logical fallacies in the argument, not whether there is someone with a money reason to support that side.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Someone, somewhere, on NPR said last week that the glaring inconsistency in the Reptilicans’ Keystone strategery was the fact that the pipeline is owned by a foreign corporation and they are looking to have the Fed approve their Eminent Domaining.

    Any thoughts?

  • Synfandel

    TransCanada Corporation is registered in both the US and Canada, but it’s still fair to call it a ‘foreign corporation’ (from a US perspective), as it is about half owned by institutions and the principal institutional shareholders are several Canadian banks, plus Deutsche Bank.

    Ref: Nasdaq

  • http://onhandcomments.blogspot.com/ left0ver1under

    It’s amazing how progressive lame ducks can be. Sometimes, unelectables become positively radical. Clinton actually apologized for US actions in Haiti in 2010 (re: “dumping” that killed off Haitian farming, causing starvation after the earthquake). Too bad they don’t show a spine when it really matters.