The House will pass legislation to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits, and it will include language jump-starting an oil pipeline project, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Saturday in the Republican weekly address.
President Obama has warned that he would veto an extension of the payroll-tax cut, his top legislative priority, if House Republicans link it to a measure that would force the administration to greenlight the Keystone XL pipeline project.
"You've heard President Obama say the American people 'can't wait' to take action on jobs," Boehner said Saturday. "Well, the Keystone project is the very definition of an idea the American people can't wait for Washington to take action on."
The Keystone provision is the first measure in the bill, and it directs the president to grant a permit for the pipeline within 60 days. But it does not force his hand completely. The president, according to the legislation, is not required to grant the permit if he determines that the pipeline “would not serve the national interest.” In that event, Obama would have 15 days to submit a report to Congress explaining his decision. The timeframe, however, would mandate a decision by the spring if the bill passes before the end of the year.
The Speaker touted the bipartisan support for the House GOP's legislation, including the Keystone language.
"This is no time for the same-old my-way-or-the-highway theatrics," Boehner said. "It's no secret that Democrats and Republicans often disagree about the best way to create jobs, but we can't let those disagreements prevent us from acting when we agree."
The pipeline is tricky political terrain for the White House. Environmentalists bitterly oppose the project over greenhouse gas emissions and forest damage from Alberta’s massive oil sands projects, among other reasons.
But a number of unions, which are also a key part of Obama’s political base, support the project.
In November, the State Department said it would delay its decision on the pipeline, citing “environmental sensitivities” in the proposed route.
Nebraska officials, including Gov. Dave Heinemen (R), have raised concerns about the route because it crosses a vital aquifer in the state.