Boehner mulls tying Keystone approval to payroll tax extension

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Republicans may tether the next extension of the payroll tax cut to approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, but is stopping far short of guaranteeing a showdown.

"Every option is on the table," Boehner said on "Fox News Sunday." "We're going to do everything we can to try to make sure that this Keystone pipeline is, in fact, approved."

Pressed about linking the pipeline to the legislation extending the tax cut for the rest of the year, Boehner replied: "We may. But as I said, all options are on the table."

Forcing a showdown with Democrats and the White House, however, would be a high-stakes gamble for House Republicans. They suffered political damage when they spent several days resisting the two-month extension of the popular tax cut in December.

The Obama administration last week rejected TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries. 

Obama had faced a Feb. 21 deadline to make a decision about Keystone under a GOP provision in the two-month payroll extension enacted in December.

Republicans are now pushing bills that would mandate approval of the project that they say would create scores of jobs and boost energy security.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) suggested at the House GOP retreat in Baltimore last week that he will seek inclusion of Keystone provisions in the payroll deal.

Upton is on the bicameral committee negotiating the payroll tax cut extension.