Irking Democrats, Republicans are continuing to insist that the Keystone XL pipeline be part of the negotiations over how to extend the payroll tax cut—despite the White House's decision to halt the project.
"If you can't say yes to a jobs program like this, then I hope that Congress will," said Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton. "We will talk about this as part of the package."
Upton is one of the GOP members of a committee tasked with hammering out differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill that would extend the two percentage point payroll tax cut through the end of 2012, as well as extend unemployment insurance. The committee had its first public meeting on Tuesday.
In December, Congress passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, a deal that included language forcing the administration to make a decision on the controversial pipeline project--which the administration decided to halt. The next step? House Speaker John Boehner said he might try to include a provision overruling the administration's decision in a full-year payroll tax deal. Key Republicans on the panel continued with that message on Tuesday, signaling that the issue will likely be on the bargaining table.
"The president should have embraced the American jobs and the energy that comes with the pipeline," said Sen. John Barrasso. "If the president believes we can't wait, we should immediately reverse this Keystone XL decision."
Democrats, though, view the issue as a non-starter. One Democratic aide said that a Keystone provision will never end up in a final bargain—and that the Republican motivation for pushing it is to stall the committee.
"I hope these extraneous measures will not be used to slow down the work on the committee," said Democratic Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen.