White House: Keystone mandate ‘noxious’ to highway bill’s future

by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that mandating approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline was “noxious” to the future of a new federal highway bill that was approved by the House.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have signaled they will hold conference negotiations about a new multi-year transportation bill after the Republican-led House approved a second temporary extension of the last funding measure for road and transit projects, which expired in 2009.

GOP leaders in the House attached a mandate to build the cross-country pipeline, which was rejected by President Obama earlier this year, to the highway bill in a bid force the White House hand if it hopes to avoid an interruption in transportation projects later this year.

The House passed the highway bill with the Keystone approval this week despite a veto threat from Obama.

Most observers expect the pipeline language not to survive a conference with the Democrat-controlled Senate, but Carney said Friday that the House’s amendment would mean “preemptively sacrificing American sovereignty.”

Carney said the amendment was added to the highway bill in a “highly politicized, highly partisan way” and would “advance, blind … a proposal for which does not exist — but we’ll approve it anyway — a foreign pipeline built by a foreign company emanating from foreign territory to cross U.S. borders.”

Carney reiterated that the inclusion of the Keystone language in the highway bill was not acceptable to President Obama, although the president has said repeatedly that Congress should approve a long-term highway bill.

“If this company and when this company submits a new route, a new proposal for the route of this pipeline, it will absolutely be given unbiased and appropriate consideration in the proper way, in the way that it’s been done for decades under administrations of both parties, and decided in the manner that it is always meant to be decided,” he said.

“Partisan efforts to attach it to something and basically to say to the American people it doesn’t matter, even though it’s coming from a foreign country, even though it’s built by a foreign company and it’s crossing our borders, let’s approve it in advance — that’s unacceptable to this president.”

Lawmakers have said they could appoint conference negotiations on the highway bill as early as next week.

The current funding for transportation projects expires June 30, and the extension passed this week by the House would run until Sept. 30.



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