WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has vowed to veto a GOP proposal that would attach the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project to his proposal for a payroll tax cut for working Americans.
Obama’s opposition Wednesday essentially thwarts House Speaker John Boehner’s effort to use the pipeline as a way to attract votes for the payroll tax holiday from reluctant GOP lawmakers. The pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is a priority for Republicans, who say it will create jobs. Critics say it will cause environmental damage, and the president has postponed a decision on it until after the 2012 election.
“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject,” Obama told reporters after a meeting with the prime minister of Canada.
“The payroll tax cut is something that House Republicans, as well as Senate Republicans, should want to do regardless of any other issues. The question is going to be: Are they willing to vote against a proposal that ensures that Americans, at a time when the recovery is still fragile, don’t see their taxes go up by $1,000? So it shouldn’t be held hostage for any other issues that they may be concerned about.”
The tax break expires at year’s end and GOP leaders have struggled to compile a package that could pick up enough Republican votes to pass Congress.
But Boehner, R-Ohio, was undeterred by the president’s opposition. Boehner has been working behind closed doors to overcome a rift among Republicans that has divided the party on one of its core issues – tax policy. He is working to compile a broad legislative package that would include the payroll tax holiday, an extension of long-term unemployment benefits that also expire Dec. 31 and other measures.
“We are working on a bill to stop a tax hike, protect Social Security, reform unemployment insurance and create jobs,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “If President Obama threatens to veto it over a provision that creates American jobs, that’s a fight we’re ready to have.”