Pro-Keystone Senate Democrats push House to approve payroll-tax bill

Five centrist Senate Democrats are adding to pressure on House Republicans to approve the short-term payroll tax cut extension that includes provisions to expedite a federal decision on the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

"Delays or changes to the bill may jeopardize the important shared goal of moving the project forward," states a letter Monday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

House Republicans strongly back TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands (as well as some oil from U.S. projects) to Gulf Coast refineries. But House GOP leaders are nonetheless balking at the two-month payroll tax cut extension package the Senate overwhelmingly approved Saturday.

That's setting up a collision with Senate Democrats who are resisting calls for negotiations between the chambers unless the House passes the short-term package first.

The Hill online will continue its complete coverage of the high-stakes payroll tax battle Read Monday’s letter from the five Senate Democrats below:

Dear Mr. Speaker:
On Saturday, December 17, the Senate passed the bipartisan Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, the Reid-McConnell substitute amendment to H.R. 3630. The bipartisan bill, which passed with 89 votes, will move the Keystone XL pipeline forward. The Keystone XL project is critical to the nation’s energy security--it will reduce our dependence on oil from hostile regimes--and it will put thousands of Americans back to work.
This important bill will require the President to make a decision on the pipeline’s future within 60 days. It will also protect private property rights and establish a procedure for re-routing the pipeline around sensitive land within the state of Nebraska. Delays or changes to the bill may jeopardize the important shared goal of moving the project forward.
In the interest of America's energy security and economic recovery, we urge the House of Representatives to take up this bill and pass it as soon as possible. Thank you for your consideration.