In two responses released Tuesday after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Montana lawmakers called for approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., listed Obama’s denial of a permit for the pipeline as an example of failed big-government policy.
“They see higher taxes as the only way to reduce the deficit because spending less isn't even an option, ” Rehberg said in his release. “This approach hasn't worked, and it's time for a new direction. What we need is true leadership in Washington, leadership through less government, lower taxes, fewer burdensome regulations, and protection from abusive litigation."
AfterCongress passed a 60-day deadline to approve or deny the permit, Obama denied the permit, saying the 60-day deadline did not give enough time for environmental review.
The lawmakers responded that the provision — attached to the House bill by Rehberg, with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., helping to have the provision attached to the Senate two-month extension — required allowing extra time to plan a route through Nebraska.
A planned route through Nebraska became a headliner last fall, with Nebraska’s Repu lican Gov. Dave Heineman requesting a change in the route to protect an aquifer that provides water to eight states.
Obama’s administration then delayed the decision until 2012 — after the presidential election.
Bloomberg reported late Tuesday night that Heineman plans to ask Obama to reverse his decision and allow construction to begin while a new route is worked out in Nebraska — as the rider to the payroll tax bill required.
Baucus also called on Obama to approve the pipeline permit in his response to the State of the Union.
“I liked the president’s enthusiasm tonight, and I was glad to see him focus on priorities like education, manufacturing and job, ” Baucus said. “But we heard a lot of talk about energy when what we need is action — action to approve the Keystone pipeline. Thousands of jobs are at stake over this project and I’m not going to stop fighting until we get it done for Montana jobs. ”
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., facing a challenge by Rehberg in this year’s Senate election, focused in his response to the State of the Union on the need for lawmakers to work together.
Tester, voted for the Keystone provision in the Senate payroll tax cut extension and who has said repeatedly he supports the pipeline, did not mention the pipeline in his response.
“In order to put America back to work, Montanans expect Congress to put citizenship ahead of partisanship to protect our freedoms, to make responsible decisions for families and small businesses, and to hold Washington accountable to Montana’s values, ” Tester said. “My focus for the year ahead remains on working together to create jobs. ”
Rehberg said before the State of the Union address that he is a cosponsor of alternate legislation that could allow the permit to be approved.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recommended denying the permit until more studies could be conducted. The State Department has authority over the permitting due to the line crossing international boundaries.
Dec. 2, Rehberg joined 61 other representatives as cosponsors of a bill sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., transferring authority on the permit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“Today, I’m calling on President Obama to reject the political opposition to the Keystone jobs project from his campaign donors and to embrace the creation of thousands of private sector jobs, ” Rehberg said in a release before Obama’s address. “The only thing standing in the way is the federal government’s refusal to approve a simple permit, after more than three years of study and delay. If President Obama is unwilling to do the right thing, I’ve sponsored legislation to take it out of his hands completely. ”