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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Washington (AFP) – U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican rivals who took control of Congress Tuesday immediately clashed over the controversial Keystone pipeline project, setting the tone for a bruising two years on Capitol Hill.

The new Republican leadership sought quick victories, pledging to approve the construction of the pipeline from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, as they moved to counter Obama’s Democratic agenda ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

But the White House threw a monkey wrench into the plans, saying Obama — who has held up the mega-project for years, citing environmental concerns — would veto the measure.

“I would not anticipate that the president would sign this piece of legislation,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Republicans — who now control both the Senate and House of Representatives — say Keystone is a job generator. The House is set to vote Friday on the project.

The new leadership in the Senate, which flipped to a 54-46 Republican majority Tuesday following November elections, has said it has enough votes to pass the bill. A Senate vote has not yet been scheduled.

New Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said Keystone was “a no-brainer.”

Canadian firm TransCanada first proposed the pipeline in 2008, and Ottawa strongly backs the project.

“Our position on Keystone remains the same: we believe the project should be approved,” said Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.

“Right now this is not a debate between Canada and the U.S. It’s a debate between the president and the American people, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the project.”

On Tuesday, new and returning lawmakers in both chambers, including a record number of women and the first black Republican woman elected to the House, were sworn in for the 114th Congress.

“We’ll begin this endeavor on common ground,” said House speaker John Boehner shortly after he was re-elected to a third term.

But he quickly dismissed Obama as “hopelessly out of touch” for threatening a Keystone veto.

The White House, perhaps eager to hit the reset button with Republican leaders, announced a meeting next Tuesday with congressional leaders from both parties.

But Earnest threw cold water on the suggestion that Obama was launching a charm offensive with his rivals.

“No,” he said. “We are focused a little less on the charm and more on the substance… an opportunity to try to find some common ground,” the spokesman said.

Finding that common ground could prove difficult, with Democrats miffed about Keystone and other Republican initiatives that would whittle away at Obamacare, the president’s landmark health care reform.

Republicans “have committed to looking out for big oil, gas, and coal companies, eliminating reforms that hold Wall Street’s big banks accountable, and repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would take away health care from millions of Americans,” Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said.

Some Democrats in energy-rich states, like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, expressed disappointment that Obama would block Keystone and “not allow this Congress to turn over a new leaf” to ease gridlock.

For the final two years of Obama’s presidency, Republicans will enjoy their broadest congressional majority since 1930.

The party is keen to avoid much of the political crisis of the last four years, including a crippling government shutdown in 2013, with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging his Republicans to tone down their hostile rhetoric and not appear “scary” to Americans in the run-up to 2016.

“I don’t want the American people to think that if they add a Republican president to a Republican Congress, that’s going to be a scary outcome,” McConnell said in a pre-Christmas interview with the Washington Post that was published Monday.

“I want the American people to be comfortable with the fact that the Republican House and Senate is a responsible, right-of-center, governing majority.”

But even as McConnell and Boehner pledged to steer their congressional majority responsibly, they begin the new session with their caucus divided.

Boehner must contend with his party’s notoriously uncooperative right flank — a group of hard-core, non-negotiating conservatives.

Twenty-five of them voted against Boehner as speaker.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

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  • Lynda Groom

    Yeah lets pass the Keystone bill. After all in the GOP fantasy economic world adding 35 permanent jobs will solve the unemployment problem.

    • ps0rjl

      What is really amazing stat British Columbia refused t let the

      • Lynda Groom

        Our friends too the North don’t seem pleased with the proposed pipeline to the East Coast either. They know they’ve got the support of the shills to the South to push for the line through the USA intended to increase their corporated profits.

      • Dominick Vila

        Why should the Canadian people allow the destruction of their environment to ensure the Koch brothers profit from tar sand oil exports to China, when they know their Southern neighbors will sell their patrimony for a few bucks?

    • plc97477

      I would think that with how long the pipeline is going to be they would need at least a few hundred to keep an eye on possible leaks and problems but maybe that isn’t something they are going to worry about.

    • dpaano

      Yeah, as long as they don’t hire veterans!!

  • Adam Smith

    Obama lied on June 15, 2009 when he claimed that you would be able to keep your health insurance.

    • He lies about near EVERYTHING.

  • Dominick Vila

    I can’t say I am surprised. With one party determined to prostitute itself by selling our patrimony to the highest bidder in exchange for campaign funds, and the other determined to take as much abuse as it is necessary to protect our environment, this confrontation was inevitable and to be expected. What is pretty much up in the air is what level of support will Democrats in Congress give to President Obama to help sustain his promised veto on the planned construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport corrosive Canadian tar sand oil from Canada to Port Arthur for export to China.

    • dpaano

      The big problem, as I see it, is that some Democrats have stopped supporting our president. That’s what lost them the midterm election, trust me!!! Who’s going to vote for someone that doesn’t agree with the president? It makes them look ridiculous, and it didn’t help their campaigns one bit!!! Maybe if they had touted all the GOOD things that have happened during President Obama’s administration; i.e., economy, employment, stock market, etc., they might have done a little better…..but they chose to not support him, so Democrats didn’t bother coming out to vote for them.

  • FT66

    I was skeptical when I heard Mitch McConnell is very experienced and will get things done. This way? He has screwed up the “first impression”. You never get the second chance to undo it. Since they won both Chambers in Nov. why didn’t he consult the President and both agree on what issues to tackle first. His first impression will be met by a BIG VETO!!!! while he is threatening the President to dismantle ACA!!!! Am afraid nothing will be done, just only Congress People receiving their monthly check for work done ZERO.

    • Dominick Vila

      The role the Republican “leaders” are going to play during the next two years are becoming readily apparent. Boehner is likely to become a peacekeeper, while McConnell’s role is to feed red meat to the far right sharks. Boehner is likely to take a conciliatory approach to project an appearance of pragmatism that is critical for the GOP chances to win the White House in 2016. McConnelI will focus on undermining the effectiveness of the ACA, opposing gun control, anti-immigration policies, and torpedoing any attempts to solve the Iranian nuclear weapons development impasse and rapprochement with Cuba. Their common goal is to position the party for victory in 2016, the former by trying to appeal to mainstream Americans, the latter by satisfying the base of the party.

      • FT66

        Agreed. BUT is it the recipe for success? They satisfied their base in 2008 during McCain candidancy, and didn’t win. They did it again in 2012 during Romney, it was the same result. Are these people, blind or deaf? What is the use of repeating the same mistake every now and then?

        • ps0rjl

          The GOP will never win the Presidency as long as they bow to their radical right wing base. Most people including the moderate Republicans cannot accept their views. Even Ronald Reagan would be too liberal to those folks.

        • dpaano


      • dpaano

        That’s their problem….they are more interested in satisfying their “base” than they are with doing what the American public wants them to do…..since “Citizen’s United,” we have no say in anything any longer…..we can’t outspend the lobbyists that meet with Congressmen/women on a daily basis with checks in their hands!!! Our measly $5 or $10 donation doesn’t do much…….we no longer have ANY say in what goes on in OUR government. The Founding Fathers certainly did NOT mean it to be like this!!

    • plc97477

      I predict that the new congress will try to push their agenda and go batty when they find out the President has the veto and try suing if not impeaching him and find out how much the people don’t want them being idiots. I think the next 2 years are going to be very funny. I might need to make popcorn.

      • FT66

        Pass on some to me please! A lot to witness in 2015.

      • Grover Syck

        The retarded republicans tried to impeach Clinton. The house voted the impeachment, but it takes 2/3 (67) in the senate to convict. It will never happen.

        When the right wing idiots tried to impeach Clinton, they then lost everything. (the house, the senate, Newdy lost the speaker’s seat and his seat.

        All I can say is “bring it on”, if you dare.

  • Grover Syck

    Killing the KXL is the “no brainier”.
    It is an environment catastrophe looking for a place to happen.,

    • dpaano

      Exactly….and I wonder how many people in the states that will be effected the most agree that it is a good thing. Personally, if I lived in one of those states, I’d be against it 100%. We don’t know enough yet about whether or not it will cause problems with the water tables, etc….why would we take the chance until we’re positive. President Obama needs to deal with this in his own, calm manner.