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White House chief of staff Denis McDonough / Charles Dharapak, AP

In Sunday show appearances, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said there is progress on an immigration bill, officials are monitoring security worries at the Winter Olympics, and there is no timetable for a decision on the proposed Keystone oil pipeline.

McDonough also defended a chemical weapons agreement with Syria, but said the Syrians should be removing their stockpiles more quickly.

One thing McDonough did not comment on: The troubles of New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

"This is a New Jersey matter to be resolved in New Jersey," McDonough told CBS' Face The Nation. "We don't have a role in this."

Regarding other issues:

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia: McDonough said the U.S. government is not discouraging Americans from attending the Games, but is asking them to keep checking the State Department website for updates on security concerns.

"We are tracking it very, very closely, as you would expect," McDonough said on CBS. "We're in close touch with the Russians. When we get new information, we share with the American people."

The Keystone oil pipeline. While the State Department issued an environmental analysis late last week, McDonough said the application process is ongoing and he would not provide a timeline for a final decision.

In making the final call, President Obama believes the pipeline project - which would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, through the middle of the United States - "should not significantly exacerbate the climate crisis in this country," McDonough said on NBC's Meet The Press.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department and other "expert agencies" are still reviewing the pipeline proposal, McDonough said.

Republicans said Obama is delaying the project in order to placate environmentalists. Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., speaking on CNN's State of the Union, called the project a "no-brainer" because it would help lower the cost of oil, and said it could only be opposed for "purely ideological reasons."

Immigration. McDonough said the administration is happy to discuss new Republican ideas on immigration. But he raised questions about a GOP proposal to permit a new kind of "legal status" to immigrants who are in the United States illegally, but are willing to pay back taxes and fines.

The Obama administration wants a formal "pathway to citizenship."

While saying "we're not going to jump to any conclusions on this," McDonough told CBS' Face The Nation: "We don't want to have a permanent separation of classes, or two permanent different classes of Americans in this country.We're just not gonna live with that."

The White House chief of staff added: "We'll see how this plays out."

Syria. The U.S. has said that, so far, Syria has removed only 4% of the chemical weapons due out of the country by June 30.

"It's not falling apart, but we would like to see it proceed much more quickly than it is," McDonough told CBS. He later added, "we're going to make sure that the Syrians live up to their obligations. They have an obligation to the international community to do exactly what they said they'd do."

During the Meet The Press appearance, McDonough disputed the idea that Obama - who has seen his approval ratings fall to the low 40s - faces a "shrinking" presidency.

"I concede that the president doesn't spend a lot of time looking at Washington," McDonough said. "What the president does is spend a lot of time looking at what families across the country want."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: McDonough talks immigration, Sochi, Keystone on shows

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