Republicans Plot New Strategy for Keystone Pipeline, Eyeing Debt-Ceiling Bill

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July, 11, 2012, after the Republican-controlled House voted 244-185 to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
National Journal
Clare Foran
Sept. 23, 2013, 4:37 p.m.

Frus­trated by their in­ab­il­ity to man­date con­struc­tion of the Key­stone XL pipeline through le­gis­la­tion, con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are plot­ting yet an­oth­er at­tempt to pres­sure Pres­id­ent Obama to ap­prove a per­mit for the con­tro­ver­sial pro­ject, this time by ty­ing it to the loom­ing debt-ceil­ing vote.

In a meet­ing of the House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence last week, House lead­er­ship also dis­cussed adding oth­er en­ergy riders to debt-ceil­ing le­gis­la­tion pulled from bills that have already passed the House either this year or in the 112th Con­gress, ac­cord­ing to a House GOP aide.

Key­stone XL is now cer­tain to be in­cluded in the bill, the aide said, along with a num­ber of oth­er meas­ures aimed at re­du­cing reg­u­la­tions and eas­ing per­mits for en­ergy pro­du­cers. The meas­ures un­der con­sid­er­a­tion would give Con­gress broad au­thor­ity to weigh in on reg­u­la­tions is­sued by the ex­ec­ut­ive branch, a move GOP law­makers hope would al­low Con­gress to block En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency at­tempts to reg­u­late car­bon emis­sions from new and ex­ist­ing power plants.

Oth­er pro­vi­sions likely to end up in a debt-lim­it bill in­clude titles from le­gis­la­tion to ex­pand off­shore en­ergy pro­duc­tion and oil and nat­ur­al-gas drilling on fed­er­al lands. “House Re­pub­lic­ans are ad­voc­at­ing for pro-growth meas­ures to be in­cluded in any agree­ment to raise the gov­ern­ment’s bor­row­ing au­thor­ity, so adding swift ap­prov­al of the Key­stone XL pipeline is an easy fit,” House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy, R-Cal­if., said in a state­ment last week.

Mc­Carthy ar­gued that the pipeline, which would carry crude from oil sands in Canada to Gulf Coast re­finer­ies, would “cre­ate tens of thou­sands of jobs, re­duce our spend­ing on over­seas oil, and in­crease Amer­ica’s in­vest­ment and com­pet­it­ive­ness throughout the world.”

On the oth­er side of Cap­it­ol Hill, Re­pub­lic­an Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, John Ho­even of North Dakota, James In­hofe of Ok­lahoma, and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­o­lina sup­port the House GOP push to link Key­stone ap­prov­al with debt-lim­it le­gis­la­tion. And in an un­usu­al bi­par­tis­an news con­fer­ence last week, two Demo­crats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia and Mark Be­gich of Alaska — joined Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., in call­ing for im­me­di­ate ap­prov­al of the full pipeline by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We have delayed build­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline for far too long,” Manchin said. “Let’s not waste an­oth­er minute de­bat­ing the ap­prov­al of the Key­stone pipeline and fi­nally be­gin its con­struc­tion.”

The sen­at­ors’ state­ments came on the same day the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing to mark the five-year an­niversary of the ini­tial per­mit ap­plic­a­tion for the pro­ject. The fil­ing of that ap­plic­a­tion in 2008 by Tran­sCanada began a long jour­ney for the pro­ject that in­cluded a post­pone­ment, then a deni­al, of the per­mit by the pres­id­ent after Re­pub­lic­ans forced a bill through Con­gress re­quir­ing a de­cision with­in three months. Tran­sCanada has since filed a new ap­plic­a­tion, but stud­ies of the en­vir­on­ment­al im­pacts of the pro­ject are still be­ing con­duc­ted by the State De­part­ment, which must ap­prove the per­mit be­cause the pipeline would cross the bor­der.

The GOP-con­trolled House has already passed sev­en bills de­mand­ing ap­prov­al of the pro­ject, but none of them have ad­vanced in the Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled Sen­ate.

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