OK, they’re not outwardly advocating this. But that’s the practical effect of demanding that the provision on Keystone XL get included in any end of the year deal to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
Republicans say they’re not budging on the pipeline.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “will not support any bill without the Keystone XL language as part of the agreement,” his spokesman Don Stewart said Friday [...]
Speaker John Boehner told a closed meeting of the House Republican Conference on Friday morning that he’s hunkering down on the pipeline provision in legislation to extend the tax holiday, jobless benefits and the Medicare reimbursement rate.
At the meeting in the Capitol, the Ohio Republican said if the Senate sends the lower chamber a two-month extension of jobless benefits, the payroll tax holiday, and the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians, “we’ll amend it and send something back.”
“And what we send back will include Keystone,” Boehner said to applause, according to two sources in the room.
The provision would force the Administration to decide on a permit for the pipeline within 60 days, and that the permit would automatically be granted otherwise. The President could decide that the pipeline production “would not serve the national interest,” and deny the permit. Politico goes on to claim that this decision would be “fraught with political risks in the thick of an election year.”
No it wouldn’t. The State Department has already come out and said that they would not have enough time within 60 days to assess the environmental risks from the pipeline project. So they would have to deny the permit if forced into a 60-day decision-making process. And that serves as the excuse. It becomes a political discussion, like any other, and calling it a “risk” is really overblown.
Furthermore, Republicans are completely aware of the State Department’s position, and so by insisting on including the Keystone provision, they are effectively insisting on killing the project. Sure, they want the project killed now, instead of postponing the decision until after the election, to force the President’s hand. But Republicans are really trying their best to kill a lucrative oil pipeline project. And that will be the argument I’d expect Democrats to make in the aftermath.
There’s another factor here. Democrats could insist on an extension of renewable energy tax credits in exchange for the Keystone XL language. Unlike Keystone, the renewable tax credits cost money, and presumably that money would need to get offset. But there’s a certain logic to exchange a renewable energy priority for a dirty energy one. You could see that coming together.
There’s certainly a chance this all falls apart, however. Boehner has basically forced the issue on the two-month extension by saying he’d add the Keystone provision. Senate negotiators are working on the compromise proposal, and Boehner wants simply to bring back the House to pass it. But if this delicate compromise cannot get made, especially with respect to Keystone, you could see this collapse.