GOP Senators to Obama: ‘Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way’ on Energy

By Matt Cover | March 22, 2012 | 6:03 PM EDT

President Barack Obama arrives at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla., Thursday, March, 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

( – Republican Senators had a message for President Obama Thursday following his speech in Cushing, Oklahoma taking credit for a portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that did not require his approval: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

“I hope the president will lead, follow, or get out of the way,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said at a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday. “It’s ironic that the president is in Cushing saying that you can’t drill yourself to lower gasoline prices. Well, we’re not even talking about drilling on the Keystone pipeline – not in the United States – we’re saying just let us turn on the spigot.”

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Cushing will be the location of the southern third of the proposed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Cushing section will be built despite Obama’s cancelling of the full project in January, because it does not need administration approval.

“As long as I’m president, we’re going to keep on encouraging oil development and infrastructure,” Obama said in his speech Thursday, calling the Cushing section of the pipeline “a priority.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that Obama’s visit to Cushing was a meaningless gesture since the pipeline will not be bringing any new oil into the U.S.

“Why is he standing up and taking credit for this?” Murkowski asked. “This is the one thing that he doesn’t have authority over in terms of signing off on it.”

“Because as good as it looked for him to be standing in front of all that rolled pipe, that pipe doesn’t do anything if we’re not moving a product – and what we want to be doing is moving that product from Canada into this country, into our refineries,” she said.

Obama’s speech in Oklahoma stood in stark contrast to his decision just three months ago to cancel the Keystone XL project, claiming that there were environmental concerns that needed to be worked out. At the time he canceled the full project, Obama made no mention of any section of the pipeline being a priority.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), whose state lost access to the Keystone XL pipeline when Obama canceled it, said that Obama’s call for expediting the southern portion of the pipeline was hollow, since the administration had already taken more than three years to study the full project.

“He’s talking about expediting? The facts are that this project has been under review for three-and-a-half years – more than three-and-a-half years,” Hoeven said. “So he calls studying a project for three-and-a-half years, going out and having a press conference and saying part of it’s moving forward – the only part that doesn’t need [federal] approval – I’m going to hold up the rest. And somehow he calls that expediting energy development in this country?”

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said that as Obama’s approval ratings decline, he seemed to be giving  more speeches on energy. Thune wondered whether, if the president’s poll numbers continue to decline, he might eventually approve the entire pipeline.

“Today the president is having his 17th news conference on energy in the last three months,” he noted. “It’s ironic, I think in a lot of respects, that he’s talking about the Keystone pipeline. His approval ratings keep going down because I think people recognize that his blocking of the Keystone pipeline is hurting our gas prices in this country.

“We’re hoping that if his approval ratings continue to go down even further, maybe he’ll approve the part that actually connects to the oil,” Thune said.