By Emily Sperling By Emily Solis, Bloomberg PoliticsThe Trump administration’s decision to stop funding pipeline construction has exposed a deep political fault line between President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders, as well as an increasingly partisan GOP in Washington.
The White House is now scrambling to figure out how to replace the $15.5 billion program, which has been in place since 2011 under the administration of former President Barack Obama.
The decision to halt the program, known as the Dakota Access pipeline, comes after months of intense lobbying by Trump’s allies in Congress to keep the project moving.
The president, however, has repeatedly expressed skepticism about whether the pipeline will make it to market and, at times, expressed anger that his administration had to make the decision in the first place.
The president, whose approval rating has sunk to 40%, has repeatedly blasted his administration’s political and diplomatic efforts in the region, which are in contrast to previous administrations that have made the pipeline a priority.
In the last month, the White House has come under pressure to halt construction of the pipeline amid an international protest over the deaths of two Native Americans at the hands of security guards.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the decision to approve the pipeline, and he has vowed to withhold funds from any company that fails to comply with environmental rules.
“We’ve had no communication from the administration,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee who is the No. 2 House Republican.
“They’ve been telling us the pipeline is in a very good place, that they’re not going to take any money from any state that doesn’t want to build it, and we’re still not getting that message.”
It’s a problem Republicans have struggled to solve for years.
The party controls both chambers of Congress and has control of the White Houses purse strings, which makes it difficult for any of its leaders to take action against the president’s demands for more funding.
“They’ve got to come up with a way to get around the president and his power,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R/Ariz.), a prominent member of Republican leadership who has pressed the Trump team to move quickly on the Dakota access project.
“I think the president wants to have a clean and secure pipeline, but I don’t think he has the power to do it himself.”
The Trump decision to withhold the $5 billion fund comes after the administration sent a letter to pipeline operators and urged them to continue construction.
The letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg, warned that “any delay in building the pipeline would have serious and irreparable consequences” for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its water protectors, among other groups.
“There is a risk that these delays will put our drinking water supplies at risk, and jeopardize the future of our water resources, and that could lead to water contamination, the transmission of disease and other health problems,” the letter said.
“If this continues, it could have a devastating impact on the Standing Sioux and on the American people,” it added.
Trump has repeatedly questioned whether the project is a good investment.
On Sunday, he called it a “scam” that would harm the Standing Stone Sioux tribe.
Trump said the pipeline was “not going to get built,” but he has repeatedly promised to veto any legislation that would fund it.
He has also said he would consider withholding funds to build the pipeline if Congress does not pass legislation to provide funds.
“I think they have the right to do what they want, but it would be in their interest if they were not spending money on the pipeline,” Flake said.
“That’s a pretty clear conflict.”
Flake, who represents the area in South Dakota, said he believes the White State has a responsibility to “take a hard look at” the Dakota pipeline.
The Trump White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it will continue to fund the pipeline and the White Mountain pipeline, which is also still under construction.
It is unclear if the White Trump’s team has a plan to replace those projects.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is seen in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in this handout photo taken by Reuters November 21, 2018.
The Obama administration, which made a major push for the project during his tenure, made it clear in a 2016 report that the pipeline project was in a strong financial position, and there were no plans to halt work.
The pipeline was initially slated to be completed by 2021, but construction has been halted by environmental activists who fear the project will threaten drinking water sources.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that the project would be completed and that construction would resume soon.
In March, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that the Dakota Sioux Tribe’s objections to the project were legitimate, and the Trump Administration has indicated it would consider the tribal’s legal challenge.
The agency said that it is in the process of finalizing an environmental impact statement for the pipeline