President Obama warned on Wednesday he will block any effort by House Republicans to force him to approve the controversial Keystone pipeline as a price to get an extension of the payroll tax cut. “Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject,” he said firmly at a brief press conference at the White House after a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Everyone should be on notice,” he said, adding, “The reason is because the payroll tax cut is something that the House Republicans as well as Senate Republicans should want to do regardless of any other issues.” The economy, he insisted, is just too “fragile” to let taxes go up on most Americans. “So it should not be held hostage for any other issues they could be concerned about.”
Obama said his opposition extends to any other issue that Republicans want to tie to the payroll tax issue. “My warning is not just specific to Keystone,” he said. “Efforts to tie a bunch of other issues to what is something they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me.”
“I don’t expect to have to veto it because I expect there will be enough sense on Capitol Hill to do the people’s business,” Obama said. But he added, “It is fair to say if the payroll tax cut is attached to a whole bunch of extraneous issues not related to making sure the American people's taxes do not go up on January 1st, it is not something I will accept.”
Republicans wasted no time answering back and signaling that they will not back down. "We are working on a bill to stop a tax hike, protect Social Security, reform unemployment insurance, and create jobs," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner. "If President Obama threatens to veto it over a provision that creates American jobs, that’s a fight we’re ready to have."