GOP Turns Up Heat After Obama's Keystone 'Double Back Flip'

On the Senate floor in the morning, four lawmakers engaged in a colloquy on pump prices and the Keystone pipeline: Hutchison and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Portman noted that gas prices have risen 95 percent over the past three years, with a 17 percent drop in oil production in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010 to 2011.

"We're not seeing an increase, we're seeing a decrease" in production, Portman said. "We've got to produce it here at home to get away from the OPEC cartel."

"What the president does favor is the Saudis increasing oil production, and increased use of solar, wind and algae here at home," Hutchison said. "Mr. President, does that really substitute for an energy policy? Is that something that Americans can count on to increase the supply of energy in our country?"

Blunt referenced a 2008 quote by Obama's energy secretary, Steven Chu, to the Wall Street Journal. "Somehow,” Chu said, “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” where now gas averages $9 a gallon in Italy.

"We're not Europe," Blunt said. "We're a big country that is dependent on transportation."

While "every other country in the world" looks at its natural resources as economic opportunity, though, Blunt charged, the U.S. looks at its energy resources as an "environmental hazard."

Hoeven, through whose state the completed first phase of Keystone enters the U.S., pulled out charts showing that on Obama's Inauguration Day the average price of gas per gallon was $1.85. His chart made by staffers Monday was already out of date on Tuesday's gasoline average, though, by the time he propped it up on the Senate floor: $3.70 a gallon, it read, though the price had jumped two cents.

"The projection is that by Memorial Day gas will be $4 a gallon and by later this summer it could be as much as $5 dollars a gallon," Hoeven said.

To the White House's "all-of-the-above" strategy," he said, "I agree with that. The problem is that the administration is saying that but they're not doing it. They're actually blocking oil and gas development in our country."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) criticized the GOP senators' colloquy on a day that the chamber was supposed to be taking up a highway bill -- on which one of the more than 150 amendments filed is a Republican push for Keystone.

"These amendments have absolutely nothing to do with the transportation policies of this country," Cardin said.

Another is a Blunt amendment on religious freedom and the HHS contraceptive mandate. Blunt later tweeted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will allow a vote on his amendment Thursday.

In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was appearing before the panel to discuss Obama's budget request, to push for Keystone approval on national security grounds.

“Given the intensity of multiple crises in the Middle East and the certainty that threats to oil supplies are not limited to the current crisis with Iran, it is incomprehensible that the President has rejected approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” Lugar said. “Few national security decisions of the past several decades are more clearly at odds with core U.S. interests than the president’s pipeline delay.”

Lugar added that the delay of the project "sends a signal to markets and our overseas enemies that we are not serious about ending U.S. energy dependence."

Senators at the Republican Policy Committee lunch received a handout detailing the harm that could result from "a transparent election-year attempt to look like he is doing something about skyrocketing gasoline prices" by tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"President Obama has still not refilled the 30.64 million barrels of crude oil he plundered from the SPR last year," the memo states. "If the President were to release another 30 million barrels this year, he would leave the SPR with 665.9 million barrels of emergency oil reserves, a significant reduction from the 727 million barrels the critical reserve contained when he took office."

On the House side, the Republican Study Committee released an infographic noting that Obama had approved 23 percent of drilling plans so far this year, down from the 73 percent historical average rate for such plans' approval.

And a number Republicans kept drilling home all day: 830,000, the daily capacity of barrels that could be carried by Keystone XL, or 34 million gallons per day.

"How could the president say that won't lower the price?" Hutchison said. "How could he say that?"