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Keystone Decision Hands GOP Ammo

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that the GOP may push to include pipeline language in a conference committee’s deliberations to extend a payroll tax cut.

President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday handed Congressional Republicans a rallying point, with Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) warning, “This is not the end of the fight.”

“All options are on the table,” Boehner said when asked whether he would look to include pipeline language in a conference committee’s deliberations to extend a popular payroll tax cut.

“There are legislative vehicles that will be moving in the weeks and months ahead” that Republicans could attach the language to, he added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also blasted the decision.

“[Obama’s] decision to block the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, thousands of jobs and increased energy security is stunning. His decision shows a fundamental disconnect with job creation in this country and, sadly, that his focus is on appealing to his liberal environmental base rather than taking steps that can lead to thousands of jobs and energy security for our nation,” McConnell said.

Earlier Wednesday, the White House announced that Obama would deny the permit request. In a statement, Obama blamed Congressional Republicans for setting a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” that prevented the State Department from making a “full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.”

Obama noted that his decision was “not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.”

Still, the decision handed the GOP a ready-made talking point.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a member of the conference committee handling the payroll tax cut talks, said the issue may reemerge.

“This I know: We’re not giving up on that project. There’s too many jobs at stake. Too much common-sense energy development that benefits us and Canada. It’s a huge mistake the president’s making economically,” Brady said.

Senate aides from both parties appeared surprised by the White House’s decision to announce its position on the pipeline so far before its deadline.

Senate Republicans reveled in the opportunity to replay a fight they felt they were winning until the House GOP rejected a short-term extension of the payroll tax holiday that included language to expedite the pipeline. They are currently reviewing legislative ways to revive the issue, according to a leadership source, and many Members of both parties were quick to release statements opposing the president’s action.

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