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Republican terriers try to turn bark into bite by taking Keystone decision away from President Obama

By CL - Posted on 01 February 2012

House Republicans are gearing up for another round over the Keystone XL pipeline. This time they hope to force the White House to approve it by tying it to an energy and highway construction bill. But Senate Republicans have another plan: Take the decision about the pipeline completely out of the hands of the president altogether and give it to Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that he may attach approval of the Keystone pipeline to the GOP-initiated American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. Republicans tied a requirement for a quick White House decision on the pipeline to the two-month payroll tax-cut extension in December. That gambit ran aground when President Obama rejected the pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil along a 1700-mile Alberta-to-Texas route. The 60 days allowed for coming to a decision was unreasonably short, the administration said.

Unlike previous speculation, Boehner apparently won't be trying to attach pipeline approval to the full-year extension of the payroll tax cut now being worked out in a Senate-House conference committee.

But three senators instrumental in getting the quick-decision stricture into the payroll tax deal last year have a fresh plan that could make Boehner's moot.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Richard Lugar (R-IN) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation on the floor Monday afternoon that would yank authority for any pipeline decision away from the administration and give it to Congress instead. They cite constitutional grounds for this under the Commerce Clause. That's an approach bolstered by an analysis by the Congressional Research Service:

"[I]f Congress chose to assert its authority in the area of border crossing facilities, this would likely be considered within its Constitutionally enumerated authority to regulate foreign commerce," the analysis states. [...]

The four CRS attorneys write that their review “suggests that legislation related to cross-border facility permitting is unlikely to raise significant constitutional questions, despite the fact that such permits have traditionally been handled by the executive branch alone pursuant to its constitutional ‘foreign affairs’ authority.”

The three sponsors of the proposed legislation claim their approach is bipartisan because the 44 senators who have signed on include one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Just two big problems: getting many other Democrats on board; and, should they gain passage in the Senate and the House, getting the president's signature on legislation designed to go around him on the pipeline.

Now, at least we know what Hoeven and Manchin were talking about when they sat together for the State of the Union address. Said Manchin of the proposed legislation:

As our country continues to need oil, common sense tells me I’d rather buy it from our friends in Canada, not countries around the world that seek to do us harm. I’d rather buy from our closest ally and create jobs in America than push Canada to build a pipeline out to the West Coast of North America that benefits countries like China. This pipeline is a job creator with support of both labor and business. It needs to be built not for the benefit of one political party or one state, but for the benefit of America.

Republicans, who promised creation of jobs would be their No. 1 priority in the run-up to the 2010 congressional elections but have yet to produce any, have made the pipeline all about jobs. Because now it's another election year. Like the megamedia, they've touted pipeline builder TransCanada's claims in this regard, arguing that at least 20,000 direct jobs would be generated by construction and more than 100,000 indirect jobs. A study by the Cornell Global Labor Institute says the project will create far fewer jobs than TransCanada and the company's consultants claim.

The entire list of sponsors of the legislation can be seen below the DKos croissant.

In addition to Sens. Hoeven, Lugar and Vitter, other original cosponsors of the bill are Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Rob Portman (R-OH), John Barrasso (R-WY), John McCain (R-AZ), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR) Jim DeMint (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Patrick Toomey (R-Penn.), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS).