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Top House Republican suddenly claims to be very concerned about union jobs

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise has a lifetime AFL-CIO score of just 9%.

By Josh Israel - January 21, 2021
House Minority Whip Representative Steve Scalise

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise attacked President Joe Biden on Wednesday for keeping his campaign promise to halt construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Despite his long record of opposing labor unions and workers, the Louisiana Republican suggested his concern was rooted in protecting “union jobs.”

“President Biden just revoked the Keystone XL permit—this will destroy union jobs and undermine America’s energy security,” Scalise tweeted. “This is more of the same failed Obama energy policies that left us dependent on oil from OPEC and increased energy prices for hardworking families.”

Hours after taking the oath of office, Biden signed 15 executive orders aimed at undoing the damage of the Trump administration.

One of his numerous actions to address the climate crisis was to revoke the federal permit for construction of Keystone XL, a massive proposed pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists have warned that tar sands pipelines as especially susceptible to dangerous leaks and that this one would have a devastating impact on climate change.

Contrary to Scalise’s implication, the completed pipeline would do little for American workers. While its construction would require a substantial number of temporary employees, the State Department estimated that the project would create just 35 permanent jobs.

Experts say the pipeline would not do much to ensure American energy independence, expanding fossil fuel availability at a time when the world is moving away from oil and gas. Much of the Canadian oil would be exported out of the United States after being refined.

Scalise’s concern for “union jobs” is not matched by his record. According to the AFL-CIO, over his 12 years in Congress, Scalise has voted with working people just 9% of the time.

He voted against increasing the minimum wage, eliminating forced arbitration, and expanding paycheck fairness protections. In 2015, he blasted President Barack Obama for “bowing to the special interests of big labor,” after he blocked a Republican effort to make it harder for workers to unionize.

A year later, he opposed Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court on the grounds that he had “shown his liberal ideology by siding again and again with big labor unions against the rights of workers and job creators.”

A wide array of other Republicans also angrily condemned Biden’s decision, also misleadingly claiming that Keystone XL’s cancellation will cost lots of jobs.

“President Biden called for empathy. But one of his first actions was canceling the Keystone pipeline, eliminating more than 11,000 good-paying jobs,” complained Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). “Where is the empathy for the Americans who are now unemployed thanks to Joe Biden?”

“On day one, President Biden issues executive orders that will… Open our borders, Drive up our energy prices, [and] Destroy American jobs,” tweeted Rep. Bob Good (R-VA). “These actions diminish the freedoms, prosperity, safety, and security of all Americans.”

The Sierra Club praised Biden’s action on Wednesday as a “huge and hard-fought victory for our communities, clean water, and climate,” noting the “a nationwide movement of frontline communities, Indigenous leaders, and environmentalists” who insisted “that our future is not worth sacrificing for a dirty tar sands pipeline.”

“We applaud President Biden for listening to these voices and rejecting this terrible project once and for all,” said Catherine Collentine, the group’s dirty fuels campaign associate director, in a press release.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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