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Keystone XL job No. 1, GOP says

Democrats, Obama question many of the arguments in support of the oil pipeline.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Keystone XL job No. 1, GOP says
Keystone XL is job No. 1 for members of the new Republican-led Congress. (courtesy TransCanada)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- With the Republican-led Congress taking its seat Tuesday, lawmakers say passing the Keystone XL oil pipeline is job No. 1 for the U.S. economy.

Republicans during midterm elections in November secured enough seats to take control of both the House and Senate. After the victory, GOP leaders said passing legislation in favor of the Keystone XL oil pipeline planned to cross the U.S.-Canadian border would be the first order of business.

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Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., a new member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a measure Tuesday in support of the pipeline. The Senate is expected to pursue similar efforts.

"By passing this bill in the House and Senate with bipartisan votes, we can help provide the political muscle the president needs to finally approve this piece of critical transportation infrastructure," Cramer said in a statement.

A federal permit is needed to build a pipeline that would carry oil from Canadian fields to southern U.S. refineries. Keystone XL planner TransCanada submitted its application to U.S. government more than six years ago.

The pipeline has become a scapegoat in the debate over U.S. energy policy. Critics argue it's an export pipeline that carries a grade of crude oil that's carbon intensive to produce. Supporters say it would support North American energy security and be a source of economic stimulus.

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"After six years of foot-dragging, it's time to finally say yes to jobs and yes to energy. It's time to build [this pipeline]," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a statement.

A Senate bill meant to push Keystone XL forward failed to get the support needed when Democrats were in control last year. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said his counterparts in the GOP would have an uphill battle with their efforts in the 114th Congress.

"Our Republican colleagues are doing what they always do: they're appeasing a few special interests -- in this case oil companies and pipeline companies and not really doing what's good for the average middle class family in terms of creating jobs," he said on CBS' Face the Nation program last weekend.

The fate of the project rests in part on a Nebraska court decision on whether the state's governor had the authority to sanction the pipeline's route through the state.

President Barack Obama in a mid-December press conference said he questioned many of the Republican arguments in favor of the pipeline.

"I think that there's been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it's hard to see on paper where exactly they're getting that information from," he said.

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