House budget chief looks to tie Keystone to debt-ceiling vote

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) suggested tying approval of the Keystone pipeline to raising the debt ceiling Monday night. 

"We've never just done nothing," Ryan said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, which was being guest-hosted by Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), when asked how Republicans would handle the debt-ceiling negotiations. "We want to make sure that we’re taking steps in the direction of fiscal conservatism, of fiscal responsibility. I, for one, think we need to do more in the energy sector. I believe we need to approve Keystone pipeline.”

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Ryan also said that removing some energy regulations could also be a step.

“If we just get the government out of the way, it could be a real renaissance of oil and gas exploration in America — lower our gas prices, stop sending this money to foreign countries,” he said. “It helps us with our foreign policy. So I think there are things we can do in our majority to leverage, to get some of that going as well.” 

Ryan helped reach a bipartisan ceasefire over the budget with the deal he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) struck last week. These comments suggest another fight could come sometime between March and June, the window given by the Congressional Budget Office for when the country could hit the debt ceiling.

Ryan suggested the debt ceiling could be a chance to reopen the negotiations.

“I didn’t get the entitlement reforms I wanted. Patty Murray didn’t get the tax increases she wanted,” he said. “Maybe we can go back at some of those things that we were looking for.”

A demand to include Keystone pipeline approval in the debt-ceiling deal could add another headache on the issue for the Obama administration, which has already faced protests against its approval by environmental groups. The State Department is currently completing a final study of the pipeline’s environmental impact. 

The Obama administration continues to insist it will not negotiate at all over the debt ceiling.

“The president’s position has not changed,” White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated Monday.