Poll: Strong support for ‘Buffett Rule’ and Keystone XL pipeline

Americans are unified in their support of two of the most divisive issues before Congress — the Keystone pipeline, which is supported by Republicans, and the “Buffett Rule” calling for higher taxes on millionaires, backed by Democrats.

According to a United Technologies-National Journal Congressional Connection poll, 76 percent of Americans support the Buffett rule, versus only 19 percent who are against it. The rule would require individuals who make more than $1 million a year to pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent.

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The idea, named for the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is central to President Obama’s 2012 platform to “level the playing field” for workers. 

Obama renewed his push for the Buffett rule in last Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Debbie Bosanek, Buffett’s secretary, was in the audience as the president argued that her salary should not be taxed at a higher rate than her boss, whose primary source of income is from long-term capital gains. Capital gains are taxed at a rate of 15 percent, but critics of the Buffett Rule note that the income has been taxed at the corporate level as well.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said he’s close to finalizing legislation, the “Paying a Fair Share Act,” that would codify the Buffett rule, although it’s expected to be met by broad opposition from House Republicans, who generally oppose tax increases of any kind.

On another issue, however, most Americans side with Republicans, backing efforts to move forward with the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. Sixty-four percent say they are in favor of the project, against only 22 percent who are opposed.

Republicans argue that the project would reduce U.S. dependence on oil from unstable nations and create thousands of jobs.

Earlier this month the White House rejected the project, saying Republicans had implemented an arbitrary deadline that prevented the project from being fully vetted.

The president did not mention the pipeline in his State of the Union address, but sought to stymie fallout from the decision by touting his administration’s investments in clean energy and natural-gas development.

Republicans, however, say his opposition to Keystone is another example of how Obama’s policies kill jobs.

The administration has invited TransCanada Corp. to reapply for the project; however, Senate GOP leaders are looking to circumvent the administration’s decision by using Congress’s powers under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

Both the Buffett Rule and the Keystone pipeline will be big issues in the 2012 elections.

All of the GOP presidential candidates quickly condemned the Obama administration’s decision on the Keystone pipeline.

And Democrats are using Mitt Romney to make the case for the Buffett Rule, accusing him of not paying his “fair share” in taxes.

Last week, Mitt Romney released his tax returns, showing that he owed less than 14 percent in taxes on total income of nearly $22 million in 2010. 

Newt Gingrich, while not a supporter of the Buffett Rule, also used Romney’s financial disclosure to score political points, saying he would call his flat tax plan the “Mitt Romney flat tax,” arguing that all Americans should be able to pay the same low rate as him.