Josh Earnest: GOP should compromise with Obama, but he won't budge on Keystone

On the Thursday after Democrats’ drubbing at the polls, White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest appeared on CNN where he doubled down on Barack Obama’s insistence that the areas where there was likely to be grounds for compromise were initiatives of key importance to the American left. In his speech yesterday, Barack Obama inexplicably cited “roads and bridges,” universal pre-kindergarten funding, and increasing the minimum wage as places where ascendant Republicans should compromise their principles. Each of these proposals are also, coincidentally, bullet points on the progressive wish lists he calls State of the Union Addresses.

Somehow, Obama was unable to get his agenda passed when his party controlled both chambers of the legislature. Now that the House and Senate are lost to the Republicans, Earnest was asked where there were areas in which the onus would be on Obama to compromise with the GOP. CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota specifically cited one proposal that is wildly popular and generally understood to be good for economic growth: the Keystone XL Pipeline. Earnest demonstrated Obama’s bottomless capacity for magnanimity when he signaled that the president would not budge off his opposition to even something with astronomical bipartisan appeal like Keystone.

“We’re actually going to allow the State Department to conduct their regular process of evaluating whether or not the construction of the Keystone pipeline would be in the national interests of the United States of America,” Earnest said after casting doubt on whether the construction of a transit line carrying oil from Canada to a Gulf Coast port would be of any economic benefit to the United States.

This is, of course, bunk. Keystone was submitted to the State Department in 2008 — or 24 Democratic senators ago — for review. That process would have been completed long ago but for the White House’s direct intervention.

“The Obama administration further delayed its decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project on Friday, with no conclusion now likely until after the U.S. mid-term elections in November,” Reuters reported in April of this year. “The legal process will likely continue past November and might stretch into next year, meaning more delays for the politically-charged issue that has been on the drawing board for more than five years.”

But Earnest got to the meat of the White House’s opposition to Keystone when he was pressed. “I do think it continues to be an open question about what impacts the construction of the pipeline would have on those causes of climate change, and that is a concern that the president articulated a couple of times now,” he said.

Not according to the State Department and its endless review process. “A long-awaited State Department environmental report on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline indicates what the oil industry and its backers have been saying — it won’t have a big impact on carbon emissions that cause climate change,” CNN reported in January.

This prompted thoughtful and serious liberals like Rep. Raul Grijalva (R-AZ) to declare the entire review a “sham” and insist that there was a conspiracy was afoot on the part of State Department to, presumably, make the planet sick.

The left clings to baseless, unscientific opposition to the Keystone pipeline like a totem. Their antagonism toward this project is either political or paranoid, and it should not be treated seriously. Republicans in the 114th Congress should pass legislation authorizing construction of this universally popular project – even among a majority of Democrats – every week for the next two years. Let the Democratic slate of 2016 candidates determine whether Obama’s repeated vetoes were politically wise moves.

An earlier version of this post identified the next Congress as the 115th Congress