The House GOP caucus definitely wants to try to force the issue on the Keystone XL pipeline with another vote. What’s not yet clear is where they want to place the rider. If they choose to attach it to payroll tax cut/UI legislation, that’s an indicator that they really want it to pass. If not, it’s an indicator that they just want to talk about it some more. So what have we seen on this?

As far as the payroll tax cut/UI legislation goes, House Republicans want Max Baucus to do their work for them.

Republicans are pressing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to buck his leadership and use his authority in the payroll tax conference to green-light the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Baucus has told business leaders in Montana that winning authorization for the transnational pipeline is one of his highest priorities for 2012.

Republicans say Baucus, as co-chairman of the payroll tax conference, has the power to include Keystone language in must-pass legislation and will pressure him to act.

“The quickest and surest way to get the pipeline going is for the Democratic chairman of the conference committee to put it into a must-do piece of legislation, the payroll tax package,” said a senior Senate Republican aide.

My guess is that Max Baucus will not do anything on the conference committee that Harry Reid doesn’t want him to do. So this House Republican attempt to offload the responsibility for blowing up the payroll tax/UI deal on someone else will not bear fruit.

And they appear to know that. Because they’ve found a different bill to which to attach their Keystone hopes.

Speaker John Boehner says that the House will try again to tie approval for the Keystone pipeline project to a new jobs bill being introduced next week.

“All options are on the table. If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it,” Boehner said of the Keystone project, which would extend an oil pipeline from Canada through the United States [...]

“Now that the president has decided for political reasons that we’re not going to move ahead just yet, not until after the election… we’re going to have to find another way to lean on the Senate, to take this issue up, because the Keystone pipeline will create … over 100,000 indirect jobs,” Boehner told me on “This Week.”

(At least they’ve settled on the 100,000 number, however wrong it is.)

By the “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act,” Boehner is talking about the highway bill. They also include opening up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling in that bill. It’s not a serious effort, and the Senate has already moved on a bipartisan highway bill without those extraneous elements.

I fully expect the House to continue pushing forward bills to “force” the Keystone pipeline into construction. But their placement is key, because they know that’s a message vote, and therefore it won’t get attached to anything they want to see pass. Which means that they don’t actually want it attached to the payroll tax cut/UI legislation. They don’t want a replay of what happened at the end of last year. So that payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance extension look to be secure through to the end of the year.