Republicans weigh options if Obama nixes Keystone pipeline

Capitol Hill Republicans are mulling new efforts to win approval of the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline if the White House rejects the project in February.

The short-term payroll tax cut deal struck in December requires a permit within 60 days for the pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries — that is, unless President Obama determines that it’s not in the national interest.

Republican aides signaled Wednesday that the GOP won’t give up the fight if Obama rejects the project or finds a way to avoid the deadline.

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The GOP could seek to add new Keystone provisions to the year-long payroll bill that lawmakers plan to negotiate.

Asked whether Republicans would seek to insert Keystone-related provisions in the next payroll package, an aide to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) replied: “We’ll take a look at our options.”

“We hope, of course, that he will do the right thing and approve the project as soon as possible,” spokesman Michael Steel said.

A senior Senate GOP aide said Republicans will “consider all options” if the pipeline is rejected.

Another Senate Republican aide said Republicans hope Obama does the "right thing" and approves the project, but added: "It’s prudent that we consider all eventualities and have a response prepared."

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is working with other Republicans on draft legislation that would put the final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in the hands of Congress, not the president.



Ryan Bernstein, Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff, told The Hill that the legislation would give Congress the option of approving the pipeline, while allowing extra time for the State Department to review alternate routes around an environmentally sensitive part of Nebraska.



“We believe that Congress can approve the project under this legislation,” Bernstein said.

The pipeline would provide transit opportunities for oil from North Dakota's booming Bakken shale formation.

Reuters reported on the potential GOP efforts earlier Wednesday. E2 has much more on the Keystone pipeline battle here, here and here.