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“If Americans want to understand why unemployment in the United States has been stuck above 8 percent for the longest stretch since the Great Depression, decisions like this one are the place to begin,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said it was “a major setback for the American economy, American workers and America’s energy independence.”

“Until we are energy-independent, it only makes common sense to get our resources from our friends and greatest allies, like Canada,” Mr. Manchin said. “I respectfully urge the president to reconsider this decision.”

The move angered the labor unions whose workers were in line to build and maintain the pipeline.

“The score is Job-Killers, two; American workers, zero,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of Laborers’ International Union of America, said in a statement. “Once again, the President has sided with environmentalists instead of blue collar construction workers.”

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said Republicans have only themselves to blame by forcing an arbitrary deadline on Mr. Obama.

“They left him very little choice,” she said.

One of the most liberal members of Congress, Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, said Mr. Obama made the correct decision. He called the pipeline “a bad deal for the country and for our planet.”

The American Sustainable Business Council, one of the few business groups opposed to the project, called the administration’s decision “the right move.”

“We know that those who are supporting the pipeline are not going to go away,” said Frank Knapp, vice chairman of ASBC and president of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

But American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard, a strong supporter of Keystone, told reporters “the president missed an easy opportunity to do what’s in the best interest of the nation. All he had to do was declare this was in the national interest.”

Dueling deadlines

The president said the administration couldn’t make a responsible decision in the time frame given by Congress, but it would continue to weigh the merits of the project on its own schedule.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Feb. 21 deadline demanded by congressional Republicans and included in last month’s compromise over the extension of the payroll-tax cut was a “purely partisan effort to score a political point.”

When reporters pointed out Mr. Obama signed the law setting the deadline, Mr. Carney responded, “He signed a law that forced a decision to be made in an arbitrary fashion.”

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