The inclusion of the Keystone XL pipeline provision was a huge messaging win for Republicans. President Barack Obama has said publicly that he would “reject” any bill that came to his desk with language about the pipeline’s expansion — and now his word will be tested. The White House softened its position on the issue earlier in the day, saying that talks were fluid. At today’s briefing Press Secretary Jay Carney said he did not want to negotiate from the podium.
The language in the bill, if it is approved Saturday, would force the administration to make a decision to approve the pipeline within 60 days — at approximately the same time the extenders package is set to expire yet again.
A senior administration official told Roll Call tonight that the deal meets the president's demand that Congress not go home without preventing a tax increase for 160 million Americans. The official said that the president had succeeded in pushing Republicans into supporting a payroll tax cut extension, and said it was now inconceivable that the GOP would not extend the tax cut for the rest of the year after agreeing to a two-month extension.
As for the Keystone pipeline language, the official noted that the president said he would not accept an attempt by Congress to mandate construction of the pipeline, but the House language does not do that; it speeds up the review process.
Indeed, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted earlier this week that the House language would effectively kill the pipeline by short-circuiting the review process.
"How will the GOP explain to their Members that their bill doesn't force the president to approve Keystone, it essentially kills it?" he tweeted.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.