Lawmakers spar over path forward on Keystone pipeline

Republicans made clear Wednesday they will press the case for approval of the Keystone pipeline in spite of President Obama's recent decision to reject in response to Congress' deadline.

"Keystone is a shovel-ready project, whose construction would create badly needed jobs," Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, ridiculed the federal government's delays in reviewing the project..

"We fought and won World War II in less time it's taken so far to evaluate this project."

The president turned down final approval in January in the face of a 60-day deadline from Congress. At the time, he said it wasn't "in the national interest" now, but he'd take another look in 2013.

On Wednesday, Democrats raised a new and novel objection, calling the pipeline a Republican earmark.

"You remember the Republicans saying they were against earmarks? Well, not when it helps their friends," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said.

Waxman pointed to reports the Koch brothers, Republican contributors, might have interests in the pipeline, and he demanded the the committee chairman, Rep. Ed Whitfield, issue them a subpoena, which he refused.

"We're not asking the Koch brothers to appear because the Koch brothers have nothing to do with the project," said Whitfield, R-Ky.

And when Whitfield called for a brief recess, Waxman threw this dart:

"Are you going to call the Koch brothers during the recess?" Waxman asked.

A clearly irritated Whitfield turned toward his colleague and said, "Let me tell you something. If you want to talk about that, let's talk about the millions of dollars the Obama administration gave companies like Solyndra to pay people like George Kaiser, who was out there bundling money for the president. Would you like us to subpoena him too?"

Kaiser was one of the main investors in Solyndra, the solar power company that declared bankruptcy despite receiving a massive federal loan guarantee.

And the man representing the district in which the Kochs live, Rep. Ed Pompeo, R-Ky, was incredulous, saying " This makes no sense to me. We are supposed to do good policy. We're not supposed to decide whether a particular company benefits or not."

The committee also summoned a State Department official to explain the new delay - after it had originally given the environmental green light last August.

But then protestors raised concerns about its route over a key aquifer in Nebraska. So, in November, administration officials withdrew approval, citing the state's concerns.

"Indeed, the people of Nebraska felt so strongly about this issue that their legislators met in special session to draft a law to ensure the Sand Hills would be protected," Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said.

But the state also quickly agreed to find a new route, which the governor says will be easy.

"The State Department had already approved the route that was much more environmentally sensitive," Gov. Dave Heineman said, "and so in my view, he should have said yes to allow this to move forward."

Many argue Obama's delays are to avoid angering either environmentalists, who oppose the pipeline, or unions which favor it.

Heineman will complicate that strategy by approving a new route by September.

"I fully expect we could get it done certainly in the early September, August time frame. I would send the letter back to the president of the United States saying we approve it, and if he were decisive he could turn around and approve it shortly thereafter. Well before the fall elections."

And legislation the president recently signed flatly states that no further environmental study will be required, once the state of Nebraska is satisfied.