House Republicans on Wednesday said they will use a must-pass debt bill to push for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and tackle other energy issues.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said Congress has until mid-October to boost the nation’s borrowing limit above $16.7 trillion, lest the nation begin defaulting on its bills.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans would soon unveil a debt ceiling bill that contains language addressing Keystone XL and provisions to delay Obamacare.
“We will unveil a plan to extend our nation’s ability to borrow while delaying Obamacare and protecting working middle class families from its horrific effects,” Cantor said. “Those discussions will also focus on a path forward on tax reform and the Keystone pipeline and a variety of other measures designed to lower energy prices, simplify our tax system and get our economy going for the middle-class working people of this country.”
The Keystone XL provision could seek to force approval of or speed up a final decision on the controversial pipeline that would transport oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Thursday marks the fifth year since TransCanada Corp. first asked the U.S. government for a permit to build the border-crossing project. The House has tried a similar gambit before.
“I’m proud that our leadership is now discussing and contemplating putting Keystone pipeline in whatever opportunities we my have with the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., who has sponsored legislation to put a final decision on the pipeline in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “I appreciate continued focus on this type of a jobs bill.”
Republican House Whip Kevin McCarthy, of California, said including Keystone XL in a debt bill makes sense.
“House Republicans are advocating for pro-growth measures to be included in any agreement to raise the government’s borrowing authority, so adding swift approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is an easy fit,” McCarthy said. “The Keystone XL pipeline is a project that will create tens of thousands of jobs, reduce our spending on overseas oil, and increase America’s investment and competitiveness throughout the world.”
Cutting biofuel quotas
Another energy measure that could be tacked on to the Republicans’ debt ceiling bill is legislation to revise an eight-year-old renewable fuel mandate that forces refiners to blend in escalating amounts of biofuel. Refiners and restaurant owners were on Capitol Hill on Wednesday pleading with lawmakers to scrap the mandate, saying it is leading to higher food and gasoline prices.
A Cantor spokeswoman said earlier this month he was contemplating folding in legislation dealing with the renewable fuel standard, which could include a measure to freeze or lower biofuel quotas under the mandate.
The debt ceiling bill is already a political challenge for Republican leaders. Adding hot-button topics like Keystone XL and the renewable fuel standard may help win a few votes in the House but aren’t likely to advance in the Senate.
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who is playing a key role negotiating possible changes to the renewable fuel standard, on Tuesday threw cold water on the debt ceiling approach.
It’s “very difficult” for some lawmakers to justify a vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by saying they dealt with other issues at the same time, he said.
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