Obama Picks First Fight With Republican Congress By Downplaying Benefits Of Keystone XL Pipeline

After beating Republicans on the recent $1.1 trillion budget deal, Obama appears to be gearing up to fight the new Congress over the Keystone XL pipeline.

During his end of the year press conference, Obama downplayed the economic benefits of the pipeline while earlier in the week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised an early vote approving the construction. McConnell told reporters a bill approving the pipeline will be the first legislation voted on by the new Republican controlled Senate next year.

The 1,179 mile pipeline from Canada to Texas would carry over 800,000 barrels of oil sands crude per day to Gulf Coast refineries.

At the White House press briefing, Obama minimized the benefits of the construction project and said he was waiting for a decision from the Nebraska court before a final decision would be made. He refused to answer a follow up question about how he would react if Republicans moved forward and put a bill approving the project on his desk.

Obama claimed the pipeline project would benefit Canadian oil companies and would have minimal impact on U.S. jobs and gasoline prices.

He also worried about the impact on climate change:

And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless. If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that.

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore. That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

Earlier in the week, I commented on McConnell’s effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved in the context of lower gasoline prices in an interview with OneNewsNow:

Tom Borelli, senior fellow with FreedomWorks thinks McConnell’s plan is a “great idea,” not to mention “good policy and good politics.”

“It’s one of the first things I believe Republicans should be engaged in,” Borelli tells OneNewsNow.

Obviously, the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is good for the U.S. but judging by Obama’s comments, the first political battle of the new year will be over this issue.

Caving to Obama’s budget demands has only emboldened the president to fight the Republicans at every turn.