This time, the project would go forward unless Obama himself declared it was not in the national interest. The president did just that, reviving intense reaction.
"This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people," Obama said in a written statement. "I'm disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision."
Republicans responded unsparingly.
"President Obama is destroying tens of thousands of American jobs and shipping American energy security to the Chinese. There's really just no other way to put it. The president is selling out American jobs for politics," House Speaker John Boehner said. Insisting that the pipeline would help the economy, he declared: "This is not the end of the fight," signaling that Republicans might try again to force a decision.
The State Department said the decision was made "without prejudice," meaning TransCanada can submit a new application once a new route is established. Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said the company plans to do exactly that. If approved, the pipeline could begin operation as soon as 2014, Girling said.
It did not take long for the Republicans seeking Obama's job to slam him.
Newt Gingrich, campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in South Carolina, called Obama's decision "stunningly stupid," adding: "What Obama has done is kill jobs, weaken American security and drive Canada into the arms of China out of just sheer stupidity."