WASHINGTON - Under pressure from the White House, the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked a GOP bid Thursday to speed approval of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
The 56-42 vote came after President Obama called Democrats to lobby them to oppose the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline.
Even so, 11 Democrats sided with Republicans to sidestep Obama’s rejection of the pipeline and allow the $7 billion project to go forward. Sixty votes were needed for approval.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky blasted Obama after the vote.
“President Obama’s personal pleas to wavering senators may have tipped the balance against this legislation. When it comes to delays over Keystone, anyone looking for a culprit should now look no further than the Oval Office,’’ McConnell said.
Democratic opposition to the pipeline “shows how deeply out of touch they are with the concerns of middle-class Americans,’’ McConnell added.
White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that Obama called senators, but did not identify them.
“The president believes that it is wrong to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed,’’ Carney said, referring to a yet-to-be-settled route that would avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska. Obama cited uncertainty over the Nebraska route in rejecting the pipeline in January. The president said there was not enough time for a fair review before a deadline forced on him by Republicans.
Carney dismissed GOP assertions that the pipeline would ease rising prices at the gas pump as “false advertising.’’
Obama fund-raisers land administration posts
WASHINGTON - Big donors considering whether to work the phones raising money for President Obama’s reelection campaign might consider the fate of his 2008 bundlers. Many of them won jobs in his administration.
Obama campaigned on what he called “the most sweeping ethics reform in history’’ and has criticized the role of money in politics. That has not stopped him from offering government jobs to some of his biggest bundlers, volunteer fund-raisers who gather political contributions from other rich donors.
More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fund-raisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.
At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors, including in Finland, Australia, and Luxembourg.
“In filling these posts, the administration looks for the most qualified candidates who represent Americans from all walks of life,’’ said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one.’’
It is a tradition to reward supporters with jobs, ambassadorships in particular. And Obama’s administration falls in line with the previous one in terms of the share of ambassadors who are political appointees.
The Foreign Service Act of 1980, however, states that “contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.’’
Obama has appointed 59 ambassadors who were not career Foreign Service officers, and of those, 40 percent were bundlers.
“We think that the pendulum has swung a bit too far toward the patronage side of things,’’ said Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association.