By Darren Goode and Scott Wong
Congressional Republicans wasted no time Wednesday blasting President Barack Obama for blocking construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, accusing the White House of playing political games.
They also complained the president failed to give GOP leaders any warning about the administration's plans.
"His decision today is a victory for the few extreme environmental activists who have lined up to protest Keystone and a defeat for the tens of thousands of Americans who are lining up to find a Keystone job," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said. "The president chose to shore up his voting base instead of standing up for unemployed Americans."
"The Obama administration complains about a 60-day deadline, but in reality it has now had 1,217 days to make a decision," Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) said. "How long does it take for President Obama to put the needs of America's workers ahead of his political interests?"
While the announcement will come Wednesday afternoon from Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Republicans say the decision was solely on Obama's shoulders.
"I would note that under the law the president signed, the decision to claim that these jobs are not in the national interest is his alone," Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told POLITICO. "The president is the only one who can make that determination and block the jobs. The State Department can't make that decision under the law President Obama signed in December."
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner echoed that sentiment.
"President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese," said Brendan Buck, Boehner's spokesman. "The president won't stand up to his political base even to create American jobs. This is not the end of this fight."
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) called Obama's decision "ridiculous."
"The only way for this country to break this dependency on the Mideast and oil from the Mideast is to bring things like the Keystone pipeline in from Canada and start drilling here in America," Scott said. "And I think the fact of the matter is if the president rejects that, that just shows how absolutely out of touch he is with America and what it takes to get this economy back on track."
The issue quickly hit the presidential trail as well.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that "the president's focused more on the next election than on the next generation," according to CBS. The decision, he added, "sends a horrible message" at a time of rising gas prices.
Boehner, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and staff huddled in the Capitol today to begin mapping out a response plan to the Obama administration's expected denial of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to a House GOP aide.
"Whether it will [be] legislatively or politically, it will continue," the aide said.
A news conference with Boehner and other top Republicans is expected after the State Department's announcement.
The response, the House GOP aide said, may depend on whether TransCanada now pulls up their stakes and decides to focus on sending the oil elsewhere.
"We can't force a private company to build a pipeline they no longer want to build," the aide said.
Burns is expected to announce that TransCanada would have the ability to refile its application once an alternative is found that avoids Nebraska's Sandhills region.
The issue is likely to come up when House Republicans hold a retreat in Baltimore on Thursday.
Some House Republicans will come out clamoring that they would have been better off pushing Terry's bill to give the decision to FERC instead of the White House and State Department in the year-end payroll tax holiday extension talks rather than the Senate GOP language giving Obama a 60-day deadline to make a decision, the aide said.
"There are members on our side who will say ... if we would have taken the House FERC language we'd be in a much different position," the aide said.
"I think Republicans are going to try to make this a live issue all year long and in a lot of ways we'll welcome that," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. " We don't think this has any contribution to energy security in any real way. It doesn't add to an economic recovery in any significant way. There's lots of ways to meet our energy needs."
The president's rejection of Keystone likely will cause a major wrinkle in bipartisan House-Senate negotiations to extend the payroll holiday through the end of the year.
Seung Min Kim and Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.