Democrats warn against tying Keystone XL to payroll tax cut extension


Senate Democrats are blasting a House Republican plan to link swift approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline with legislation to extend payroll tax breaks.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., five Democrats called the GOP tactic “completely inappropriate.”

“Based on our serious concerns about this pipeline project and the very real need to further examine its impacts, we strongly oppose the inclusion of provisions that require approval of this pipeline in an arbitrary timeframe in any legislative package moving forward in the Senate,” the group said.

The missive was spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats. The other four letter authors were Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, floated the idea of tying Keystone XL to a payroll tax cut bill last week in a bid to win over fiscal conservatives who are wary of the tax package but support the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline.

The strategy also could give a boost to the pipeline measure, by giving it a chance of passage in the Senate on the back of a tax package popular with Democrats in that chamber.

The Obama administration’s State Department recently decided to delay a final verdict on whether the $7 billion project is in the national interest until early 2013, enough time to conduct an environmental analysis of an alternative route being considered by TransCanada and Nebraska policymakers.

The Republican pipeline bill would strip President Barack Obama and his State Department of the power to permit or reject the project and instead put that decision in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The measure would give the independent agency 30 days to issue an initial permit for TransCanada’s proposed pipeline, except in some limited instances. FERC also would have 30 days to approve any new pipeline route designed to navigate around environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska once the agency concludes an environmental review of the alternative path.

The Democratic senators who wrote Reid insisted that the GOP proposal amounted to “a legislative rubber stamp approval for the Keystone XL pipeline,” because it would “eliminate (a) supplemental environmental study, require approval of the project within an arbitrary 30-day time frame and shift the approval authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.”

The letter was delivered late Tuesday, on the eve of a meeting between Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at which the pipeline was expected to come up.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would link oil sands development in Alberta, Canada with a key pipeline terminal at Cushing, Okla. From there, it would run to Gulf Coast refineries.

Pipeline proponents say it would allow the U.S. to get more of the oil it needs from a friendly North American ally instead of the Middle East, while simultaneously providing new transportation opportunities for currently land-locked oil produced in western states.

Environmentalists argue the pipeline would expand the marketplace and demand for oil sands crude that produces more greenhouse gas emissions over its entire life cycle — from production to combustion — than alternatives.

Environmental activists who oppose the pipeline were protesting outside the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C.

In a joint statement today, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard and Mark Ayers, the head of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, stressed that the U.S. and Canada would both benefit from the pipeline’s construction.

“The United States and Canada share the strongest partnership between any two nations in the world,” Gerard and Ayers said. “The Keystone XL pipeline would not only benefit from that history of collaboration but also strengthen it by allowing us to share our energy resources in a more effective, efficient and environmentally sound manner.”

On the Senate floor today, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Obama of delaying “the single greatest shovel-ready project in America” for political reasons.

Other Republicans also heaped criticism on the administration today.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, insisted that it “defies common sense” for Obama to “kick the decision until after the election . . . at a time when unemployment remains high and many of his political supporters — organized labor to be sure — say they want him to approve this project and they want these jobs created now.”

Cornyn said he backed the House GOP plan to bundle the pipeline bill with a payroll tax holiday bill and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits, especially with just a few weeks remaining on the calendar before lawmakers head home for holiday recess.

“It would be important, if those are going to pass, to package them with things that are actually going to create jobs and deliver energy that we sorely need in the United States,” Cornyn said.

Update: President Barack Obama today threatened to veto any legislation that links speedy approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to a payroll tax cut extension.

“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject,” Obama said after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “Everybody should be on notice.”

“The payroll tax cut is something that House Republicans — as well as Senate Republicans — should want to do regardless of any other issues,” Obama added.

Letter to Majority Leader Reid on Keystone XL

Jennifer Dlouhy

18 Responses

  1. Michael T Branche says:

    There is no relation between the Dormant Minerals (oil, natural gas, gold, silver, water, etc.) and taxes. These rights are “under the table”; that is to say, further down than six feet, the bottom of the grave or waste treatment lines. Persons who attempt to use these funds for ‘taxes’ become very frustrated when they cannot even see this money, ever. It is used to run the government on straight revenue.

  2. Jb says:

    WriterDude wrote:
    December 8, 2011, 6:05 AM
    “Why do we need to get more oil from Canada if we are exporting gasoline?”
    Dude, if you don’t know the answer to that, then you need to seriously think about commenting on businesses you know something about, because it’s blatantly obvious you don’t know about this one from that comment and scores of others you pipe in on without a clue.

  3. SomewhatInformed says:

    @Train Tramp: explain to me what making profits has to do with what WriterDude was asking? Yes profits will be made, but it has nothing to do with lowering gasoline costs?

    I work in the industy, and I can tell you right now that the 22k jobs number is bs.

    The jobs to construct the new line is labeled as skilled work, so most people out of work can’t just step in a do it (pipeline welder/ heavy equipment operator, Inspectors, etc…)

    And workers skilled in these types of work are already employed. I have to hire contract workers daily and have to wait weeks to get them out on the job.

    A few jobs will be created for people to operate the pipeline and terminals that are built, but nothing like the numbers that I am hearing.

    Drop the hype (both sides, tar sands isn’t toxic and is being refined in the US today) and make sure it is installed and routed correctly.

    Far too many people talking about something they no nothing about, which makes it difficult for people to see the truth.

  4. For an envirenmentalist, the issue is very simple. By not importing oil into the U.S. from Canada, We’ll shut down the production of the oil sands. This is a very arrogant and wrong assumption. Canada will continue to derive financial gain from all of it’s natural resources, (as well it should), and nothing that the U.S. does will change this. Why should they lose money? If this project isn’t approved by the end of the year, Canada’s contingency plan will go into effect, and they will begin construction of their own pipeline to the western British Columbia coast. There, they will offload crude for shipment to India and Asian markets. What the nut-job envirenmental left fails to comprehend, is that these eastern countries have very few envirenmental impact concerns. Emmisions are far greater per capita, and the capita is far greater! So, the envirenMENTALists fear on releasing even more co2 is realized by NOT building the pipeline. In addition, the danger of shipping crude by tanker or truck is far more dangerous than pipeline shipment, (which is as low risk as it can get). The eco-nutjob left will quickly point out that pipelines leak. Yes, occasionally they do leak. You’ll probably leak when you’re 50 to 60 years old as well. We do definately need an improved maintanence program for our existing infrastructure, of that, I will not argue at all. But look at the hundreds of thousands of miles of pipelines, (running through the Ogallala right now), and the earthquakes felt in Oklahoma two weeks ago. No leaks, no issues. The groundwater is fine and people are safe. I have 3 pipelines running just a couple of miles from my home. I have absolutely no worries at all, and infact, it’s a boon to our county, as we recieve tax revenues from it that allow us to keep our school system fully funded. It must be wonderful to be in the far “Sierra Club” left, and be able to think and act so idealogical, but for those of us living in the real world, pipelines are a conduit of prosperity everywhere they travel, and should be welcomed as the financial blessing that they are.

  5. CaptSternn says:

    SaltWaterCroc, the republican house has passed 22 jobs bills, Reid will not allow any of them to be voted on in the senate.

    WriterDude, oil is refined to make gasoline. We take in raw materials, make a product then export it. That works with all kinds of raw materials, not just oil. As for the budget, the democrats wouldn;t even pass a budget when they had total and absolute control. The democrats have not passed a budget in almost 1,000 days now. House republicans did tehir duty and passed a budget back in April. Democrats are cowards. They wouldn;t even raise taxes when they had the ability.

  6. LiveSimply says:

    WriterDude, your first sentence “Why do we need to get more oil from Canada if we are exporting gasoline?” shows exactly how clueless you really are! You’ve got a computer! Why don’t you do some actual research and I’m not talking about at or any on the other extreme left sites?!

  7. txloanguy says:

    Dude – Oil prices rise and fall on disruption RUMORS. Do you think shovel ready jobs created by a pipeline that will bring oil from Canada to be refined in Texas is a bad thing. The Dems don’t want to approve the pipeline. What else can they do to harm the US?

  8. Trail Tramp says:

    @WriterDude: “Why do we need to get more oil from Canada if we are exporting gasoline?”
    We make a profit by refining and selling products from oil crude. You can google the word “profit” to learn more. I understand that socialist such as youself are not familiar with the concept.

  9. WriterDude says:

    DanMan: The budget argument is hollow. If the administration put out a budget, the republicans would savage it, then contact all groups whose budgets were cut and say, “support us and we will not cut your budget.”
    The president has a budget, and deficits have gone down, but to put it out publicly would be self-defeating. The only reason the republicans want to see it is so they can attack it.

  10. WriterDude says:

    Why do we need to get more oil from Canada if we are exporting gasoline?

    Also, republicans have promoted tax cuts for the wealthy repeatedly, without ever saying how to pay for them. Now, tax cuts for you and I MUST be paid for or traded off for oil. It sounds like the 1% are bleeding the government dry. (actually it is not even the 1%, it is the 0.5%)

  11. DanMan says:

    Okay then, no vote until you produce a budget. Your move Harry.

  12. says:

    Oh wait! You mean the democrats don’t want done to them what they’ve done repeatedly over the last 2 years? I see..typical democrats…

  13. Jackalope says:

    Notice that none of the 5 senators are from states anywhere near where Keystone XL would run. Dem senators from the Keystone states are noticeably absent from this protest. They know the impact Keystone will have on their states’ economies, but these 5 don’t care about that or the thousands of jobs this would produce.

  14. Adro says:

    I don’t see the problem. The FERC should probably be making this decision anyway. And if we can’t balance our budget, we probably shouldn’t be cutting taxes.

  15. Frank says:

    Think about how absolutely insane it is that we transport oil from the middle east here when we have enough oil here. Drill baby drill. It’s more environmentally friendly but the crazy eco-nuts can’t see it.

  16. tex says:

    This will create around 22,000 jobs for a few years. And this Obama refuses to see it that way!!!

  17. txloanguy says:

    Heck, at least you don’t get an airport that flies nobody or Solyndra or any pet project Pelosi wants. It’s just a pipeline that would help lower fuel costs, bring jobs to Texas, and help our energy dependence. Help the pipeline get approved? Shame on them.

  18. SaltWaterCroc says:

    To Republicans, most of whom are full-fledged members of the 1% club, life is just a game. And so is their legislative ability. A full year in and they have yet to introduce anything vaguely related to creating jobs. Just tax cuts for the wealthy, extend the Bush tax cuts, and cut the deficit. It’s like watching village idiots at play.