WASHINGTON – Barack Obama is being pressured by members of his own party to approve the Keystone XL pipeline by May 31.
The president has received a letter from 11 pro-pipeline Democratic senators, several of whom face re-election battles that will help determine whether their party keeps control of the Senate.
They say that gives the president 15 days, beyond the current 90-day multi-department review, to make his choice. And they say the decision should be positive, given the conclusions of different environmental assessments, and happen in time for this year’s construction season.
The letter does not mention this fall’s midterm elections — but given that it was sent by members from only one party, in the only chamber Democrats currently control and are in danger of losing, the political message is obvious.
Five of the signatories face re-election races in less liberal parts of the country, in the South and Alaska.
Republicans have used Keystone as Exhibit A in their effort to brand Democrats as an impediment to job-creation. It’s unlikely that message would carry any resonance in the more staunchly Democratic parts of the country, but it could sway a few votes in Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina and Alaska — where the election-facing letter signatories come from.
For his part, Obama has already hinted a decision is coming soon. He told a recent gathering of governors to expect a choice within a couple of months.