President Barack Obama discussed the Keystone XL pipeline with reporters after a December 7, 2011 meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
Barack Obama: We did discuss the proposed Keystone Xl pipeline, which is very important to Canada. And I think the Prime Minister and our Canadian friends understand that it's important for us to make sure that all the questions regarding the project are properly understood, especially its impact on our environment and the health and safety of the American people. And I assured him that we will have a very rigorous process to work through that issue…
David Jackson, USA Today: I have Keystone questions for both of you. Mr. President, we’ve got some House Republicans who are saying they won’t approve any extension of the payroll tax cut unless you move up this oil pipeline project. Is that a deal you would consider? And also, how do you respond to their criticism that you punted this issue past the election for political reasons?
And, Prime Minister Harper, you seemed to suggest the other day that politics is behind the way the Keystone issue has been handled. Do you really feel that way?
Barack Obama: First of all, any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject. So everybody should be on notice. And the reason is because the payroll tax cut is something that House Republicans, as well as Senate Republicans, should want to do regardless of any other issues. The question is going to be, are they willing to vote against a proposal that ensures that Americans, at a time when the recovery is still fragile, don’t see their taxes go up by $1,000. So it shouldn’t be held hostage for any other issues that they may be concerned about.
And so my warning is not just specific to Keystone. Efforts to tie a whole bunch of other issues to something that they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me.
With respect to the politics, look, this is a big project with big consequences. We’ve seen Democrats and Republicans express concerns about it. And it is my job as President of the United States to make sure that a process is followed that examines all the options, looks at all the consequences before a decision is made.
Now, that process is moving forward. The State Department is making sure that it crosses all its t’s and dots all its i’s before making a final determination. And I think it’s worth noting, for those who want to try to politicize this issue, that when it comes to domestic energy production, we have gone all in, because our belief is, is that we’re going to have to do a whole range of things to make sure that U.S. energy independence exists for a long time to come -- U.S. energy security exists for a long time to come.
So we have boosted oil production. We are boosting natural gas production. We’re looking at a lot of traditional energy sources, even as we insist on transitioning to clean energy. And I think this shouldn't be a Democratic or a Republican issue; this should be an American issue -- how do we make sure that we’ve got the best possible energy mix to benefit our businesses, benefit our workers, but also benefit our families to make sure that the public health and safety of the American people are looked after. And that’s what this process is designed to do...
Reporter: Excuse me, Mr. President. By rejecting a veto, would you veto any payroll tax cuts if it had something else on it?
Barack Obama: I think it’s fair to say that if the payroll tax cut is attached to a whole bunch of extraneous issues not related to making sure that the American people’s taxes don't go up on January 1st, then it’s not something that I’m going to accept. And I don't expect to have to veto it because I expect they’re going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill to do the people’s business, and not try to load it up with a bunch of politics.