Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – The Keystone cudgel

President Obama had until the end of February to make a decision on the Keystone oil sands pipeline, but he made his move today. And, predictably, he rejected the $7 billion project. That keeps him in good standing with his environmental base for November 2012 but creates new tensions with his Republican foes.

Republicans had forced Obama to make a decision in 60 days as part of the deal for the two-month payroll tax cut extension. House Speaker John Boehner quickly reacted to the rejection by saying “all options are on the table” to craft a bill to fight for the pipeline.

But Boehner may not have many options. If the Republicans push for a bill to get approval for Keystone, the president can veto it. If they choose to make it a bargaining chip in talks for a full-year extension of the payroll tax cuts, they will likely meet fierce resistance from Democrats. We are hearing Boehner just wants to seal the payroll tax cut extension and move on after his painful capitulation in the December deal.

Perhaps Republicans should just be content to wield the Keystone cudgel on the campaign trail rather than in Congress. Mitt Romney showed how to use it pretty effectively today, blasting Obama for “his lack of seriousness” by putting electoral considerations before national interests.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Obama Administration rejects Keystone oil pipeline
The Obama administration rejected the Keystone crude oil pipeline project, a decision welcomed by environmental groups but blasted by the domestic energy industry. Obama said TransCanada’s application was denied because the State Department did not have enough time to complete the review process. Lawmakers that support the project forced a decision by attaching a measure to a tax-cut law passed at the end of last year.

Washington Extra – A man and his dog

Here’s a modern-day twist on Harry Truman’s quip “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” If you, the president, have called John Boehner and urged him to compromise on extending the payroll tax deal by two months, then all that’s left to do is go out Christmas shopping with your dog.

That’s what President Obama did today, taking Bo, the only family member who hasn’t gone to Hawaii, to a pet store in a Virginia strip mall.

Bo made friends with a brown poodle named Cinnamon, prompting a warning from his master “Okay, Bo, don’t get too personal here.” Aw, Mr President, let the First Dog enjoy his time out in the real world.

Bipartisanship on the White House menu

At a White House dinner with Senate and House leaders from both parties and their spouses, President Barack Obama got a standing ovation when he mentioned the demise of Osama bin Laden in his welcome.

“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of  Osama bin Laden…” Obama said.

At that point, he was interrupted by the standing ovation.

“We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama continued after the applause subsided.