Republicans want to jam Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders and Schumer are right: Ellison for DNC chair The Hill's 12:30 Report Hopes rise for law to expand access to experimental drugs MORE (D-Nev.) on the Keystone oil sands pipeline and the Democratic leader will have a tough time resisting, given support within his caucus for the project.
GOP leaders have made clear to Reid that they will not approve an extension of the payroll tax holiday unless it includes language to speed up construction of the pipeline.
Senate Republicans estimate as many as 14 Senate Democrats support the project. Labor unions have also voiced strong backing, complicating Reid’s endgame talks with GOP leaders.
Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) said Thursday the pipeline has more support among Democrats than her leaders acknowledge.
“It’s always had more Democratic support than people thought,” she said.
Sen. Jon TesterJon TesterMontana is not a ‘deep red’ state Poll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (D-Mont.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday: “I am proud to again offer my support for the Keystone XL pipeline and the jobs it will create. We need a quicker decision, based on the merits of this project.”
House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerMarch is the biggest month for GOP in a decade House markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving MORE (R-Ohio) told House GOP colleagues Friday morning he would force the Senate to vote on expediting Keystone by attaching it to the bill that Senate leaders are crafting on a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits.
Republicans say they will also insist on including Keystone in a yearlong extension of the payroll tax holiday, unemployment benefits and a one-year freeze in scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursements.
Republican leaders see it as a juicy political issue to use against President Obama. If Democrats block it, it reinforces the GOP message that the administration’s regulatory agenda slows job growth.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRyan, McConnell predict ‘positive, upbeat’ message from Trump Retired generals urge Congress not to cut funds for diplomacy The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ky.) said Friday afternoon that he and BoehnerJohn BoehnerMarch is the biggest month for GOP in a decade House markup of ObamaCare repeal bill up in the air Conservatives to Congress: Get moving MORE would not agree to any package extending the payroll tax holiday that did not include the Keystone language.
“There’s bipartisan support for this project and we need to get it done. We need to get it done now,” McConnell said. “The House of Representatives has been quite clear that they’re not going to support a package that does not include the pipeline. Frankly, I will not be able to support a package that doesn’t include the pipeline.”
McConnell said White House officials want to separate the Keystone pipeline from the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits but that it makes no sense to treat it in standalone legislation.
“Let’s also include something that actually helps the private sector create the jobs Americans need for the long term,” he said.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate's No. 2 Republican pushing gun bill After meeting with Trump, governors say he's crafting his own ObamaCare plan Cornyn: Border wall 'makes absolutely no sense' in some areas MORE (R-Texas) took to Twitter to make the same demand, proclaiming that “Keystone XL pipeline WILL be part of final tax package.”
At his briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney again criticized Republicans for inserting the “extraneous” pipeline issue into the bill, and said the State Department review process should be able to run its course.
However, Carney declined to rule out the White House accepting a bill with Keystone provisions. “I am not going to prejudge a final product that does not yet exist,” Carney said.
Carney rejected the notion that the president's opposition to the Keystone language is political.
"What he has said is that there are criteria that must be considered...You can't approve something before you have something to review. This is a process run by the State Department...that process needs to be reviewed," Carney said. "Again, the president is not making a judgment on whether the permit should or should not be granted. But what it shouldn't be is short-circuited because folks think it ought to be. That's what that review process is all about."
State is the agency charged with the review of Keystone, and it has said it would have to reject Keystone if the House language is approved because it would not have to do a sufficient review.
Senate Republican aides say Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillDem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks Manchin: Sanders backers should challenge me in Dem primary The DNC in the age of Trump: 5 things the new chairman needs to do MORE (Mo.), Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (Mont.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (Alaska), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDem 2020 hopefuls lead pack in opposing Trump Cabinet picks Manchin: Sanders backers should challenge me in Dem primary Greens launch ads against two GOP senators for Pruitt votes MORE (W.Va.), Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.), Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (N.C.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerTop Senate Dem: ‘Grave concerns’ about independence of Russia probe Dems worry too much about upsetting others. That needs to stop. Washington-area lawmakers request GAO report on DC Metro MORE (Va.), Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowA guide to the committees: Senate Trump's pick to lead Medicare won't say if she supports negotiating prices with drug companies Overnight Finance: Fed chief tries to stay above partisan fray | Bill would eliminate consumer agency | Trump signs repeal of SEC rule on foreign payments MORE (Mich.) and Bob CaseyBob CaseyA guide to the committees: Senate GOP loses top Senate contenders How many GOP senators will stand up to megadonor DeVos? Just 2. MORE (Pa.) also support the Keystone language.
“All the trade unions, everyone’s for it, it creates thousands of jobs,” Manchin said on Fox News earlier this week.
Several Republican senators who are skeptical about the effectiveness of cutting payroll taxes to stimulate the economy say the Keystone pipeline gives them an important reason to vote for it.
Labor leaders have pushed Democratic leaders to concede on the pipeline, which is strongly opposed by environmentalists.
“Throughout America's Heartland, the Keystone Pipeline represents the prospect for 20,000 immediate jobs, and as many as 500,000 indirect jobs via a strong economic multiplier effect,” Mark Ayers, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, wrote in an opinion piece published by The Huffington Post last month.
Speaking about the ongoing negotiations on the payroll tax bill, Carney said, "There's a process at work. I'm not going to analyze what language would be acceptable and what wouldn't."
He said the president's primary focus is in getting the payroll tax bill passed.
"I'm not going to get ahead of the process," Carney said. "The president's priority is ensuring that Americans do not get that tax hike ... it's vital to the economy."
—Ben Geman and Amie Parnes contributed to this report.
This story was posted at 2:07 p.m. and was updated at 4:08 p.m.