In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama made a point of not reaching out to Republicans or seeking common ground. Instead, he tossed red meat to the most partisan portion of his base, touting gay marriage rather than economic growth and the fight against “climate change” instead of job creation.
The problem for the president is that members of Congress, who must still face voters in future elections, can't afford to be so indifferent to the nation's most pressing problems. As a result, a bipartisan majority of U.S. senators has called on Obama to provide quick approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, urging him to “choose jobs, economic development and American energy security.”
The $7 billion pipeline would move oil from Canada to Texas refineries, passing through Oklahoma on the way. The Obama administration has blocked it twice, citing environmental concerns. Now Nebraska has rerouted its portion of the pipeline, resolving the last significant “environmental” issues raised by critics.
Continuing to block the pipeline won't prevent Canadian oil production. The only question is if U.S. customers will get the benefit, or Chinese interests.
Forty-four Republican senators are among the pipeline's supporters (no surprise), but so are nine Democrats, including Max Baucus, a party leader who also faces re-election in just two years in Republican-leaning Montana.
Apparently Baucus and the other eight Democrat supporters have this funny idea that their voters prioritize affordable North America-based oil and gas production and associated job creation over assuaging the hysterics of climate-change proponents. That makes pipeline support, in the words of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., a “no-brainer.”
Manchin is right. The Keystone pipeline decision offers Obama the chance to show if he's serious about economic growth, or just seriously partisan. Given the tenor of the president's inaugural speech, we're afraid we know which path he'll choose.