House Leadership Nears Decision on Keystone Strategy

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) holds up a photo of a pelican covered in oil as he questions BP CEO Tony Hayward during a House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on 'The Role Of BP In The Deepwater Horizon Explosion And Oil Spill', in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 17, 2010. Hayward is appearing before members of Congress as the historical and deadly oil spill disaster is nearing two months. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
Feb. 4, 2014, 1:34 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans are near­ing a de­cision on wheth­er to force a polit­ic­al stan­doff over the debt ceil­ing in a bid to win ap­prov­al for the Key­stone XL oil sands pipeline.

Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew warned Con­gress on Monday that the na­tion’s bor­row­ing lim­it could be ex­hausted as early as the end of the month, a sig­nal that law­makers will soon need to raise the debt lim­it to pre­vent de­fault.

But a debt-ceil­ing vote won’t come easy.

The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports that House lead­er­ship is plan­ning to make any vote to in­crease fed­er­al bor­row­ing au­thor­ity con­tin­gent on ap­prov­al of the Key­stone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast, or re­peal of a pro­vi­sion of the pres­id­ent’s sig­na­ture health care law. 

The pro­vi­sion of the Af­ford­able Care Act that’s at stake would mit­ig­ate fin­an­cial risk for health in­sur­ance op­er­at­ors in the first three years they op­er­ate on the law’s new health care ex­changes.

House lead­er­ship has not yet de­cided which route to take. A meet­ing of lower-cham­ber con­ser­vat­ives at the Cap­it­ol on Tues­day is likely to shed light on which al­tern­at­ive will at­tract more sup­port. 

Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans have long con­sidered the pos­sib­il­ity of for­cing a vote to ap­prove the pipeline, a pro­ject whose pro­file was raised at the end of last week when a State De­part­ment find­ing con­cluded that the pipeline prob­ably would not have any ma­jor bear­ing on the rate of Ca­na­dian oil sands de­vel­op­ment.

Still, the polit­ic­al gam­bit isn’t likely to win over all mem­bers of the party. 

Rep. Steve Scal­ise of Louisi­ana, chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, shied away from the idea of link­ing the debt lim­it to a vote on Key­stone XL.

“Key­stone ought to be ap­proved on its own mer­its; it doesn’t need to be tied to the debt ceil­ing,” Scal­ise told The Wash­ing­ton Post. “I don’t think that would be enough for a lot of RSC mem­bers to sup­port. I’d like to see a re­peal of the bail­outs for the in­sur­ance com­pan­ies. That’s be­com­ing a real strong pro­spect; it’d be good to put it on the table.”

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