As expected, the president has vetoed the bill that passed both houses (surviving a Senate filibuster) that would have authorized a pipeline that would move crude oil from the Alberta oils sands region and the Bakken shield in North Dakota, a state now producing more oil than any other except Texas, to the Gulf coast.
The pipeline has consistently polled well with all groups, is environmentally harmless (indeed, beneficial as pipelines are safer than moving oil by train, as West Virginia found out last week), and would create many construction jobs. It would be a huge gesture of good will to our neighbor and ally, Canada, and a poke in the eye to our antagonist, Venezuela, whose oil exports to the United States would be curtailed. But the Tom-Steyer-lunatic-fringe of the environmental movement adamantly opposed it, so Obama delayed and delayed and delayed.
This veto was, of course, not unexpected and it is unlikely to be overridden in either house of Congress. So the bill was, in a sense, just a political gesture on the part of the new Republican-controlled Congress. It is only the president’s third veto in more than six years in office, but there is likely to be many more as he no longer has Harry Reed to protect him politically.
But his stated reasons for the veto are almost comical:
In a message to Congress, Mr. Obama cited the ongoing State Department review as the reason for his veto, saying “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest—including our security, safety and environment—it has earned my veto.”
“Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” Mr. Obama wrote. He added that while the presidential veto is an executive power he takes seriously, “I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people.”
Asked if the Obama administration might eventually approve the pipeline after the State Department review is complete, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “That possibility still does exist. This is an ongoing review.”
This is truly rich. There is not a person on planet earth who thinks that the Keystone XL Pipeline has not been studied enough already to make informed judgments. And President Obama stated on 22 occasions that the executive branch lacked the power to change immigration law, a power reserved to Congress. But once the 2014 election was out of the way, he changed the law anyway by executive order. His complaint was that Congress had failed to act and so he had to. But when Congress, fed up with the unconscionable foot-dragging over an oil pipeline, tried to do by constitutionally correct means what the president had refused to do, he is outraged at an attempt “to circumvent longstanding and proven processes.” In other words, the Constitution is optional for the Obama administration, but executive branch procedures are absolute for Congress.
This is shameless, but what else could be expected of this administration?
Candidates for the Republican 2016 nomination should be clear that 1) once in the White House, they will clear the way for the pipeline and that, 2) they will not misuse procedures in order to avoid having to make difficult political decisions.