Showdown Coming Over Keystone XL?

by Andrew Stiles

House Republicans are setting the stage for a showdown with President Obama over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the administration has conveniently delayed a final decision on until after the 2012 election.

In an effort to draft legislation to extend the payroll tax cut passed late last year, House GOP leading are reportedly planning to attach language that would allow construction on the pipeline to move proceed. Most analysts estimate that the pipeline could immediately create about 20,000 jobs directly, and hundreds of thousands more indirectly. Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper has said approving the construction of the pipeline, which will originate in Canada, is a “complete no-brainer.”

President Obama, however, has threatened to “reject” any payroll tax legislation that included “extraneous” provisions such as the Keystone pipeline. “I don’t expect to have to veto it because I expect they’re going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill to do the people’s business, and not try to load it up with a bunch of politics,” he said on Wednesday.

One could argue that creating jobs for Americans in a struggling economy is quintessentially “the people’s business.” Many suspect that the president’s decision was designed purely to appease a prominent constituency — environmental groups — as his reelection campaign swings into full gear.

To get a sense of how stunningly out of touch the president is when it comes to the Keystone pipeline, consider that he finds himself on the wrong side of an issue on which the AFL-CIO and Republicans both agree. Here’s Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO, writing in the Huffington Post:

For America’s skilled craft construction professionals, any discussion of the Keystone XL project begins and ends with one word: JOBS. Today, roughly 14% of the American construction workforce is unemployed — which is significantly higher than the overall national unemployment rate of 9%.

Throughout America’s Heartland, the Keystone Pipeline represents the prospect for 20,000 immediate jobs, and as many as 500,000 indirect jobs via a strong economic multiplier effect…

In total, the Keystone XL pipeline project has been subjected to tremendous amounts of scrutiny through the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes review by ten federal agencies, as well as numerous state and local agency reviews. The State Department SDEIS has concluded that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impact during construction and operation” and that it would significantly strengthen U.S. economic security.

But most importantly, it is America’s workers who are clamoring for the expedited approval of this important project.

As President Obama has rightfully declared when it comes to the creation of jobs, “WE CAN’T WAIT.” 

And as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said Thursday: “If the President is serious about his commitment to economic growth and jobs in this country, he’ll sign this bill.”

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