Thursday, December 08, 2011

President Will Veto Keystone Attachment To Payroll Tax Cut

Dec 8: President Obama and the Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper met yesterday at the White House. They discussed an number of issue of importance to the two countries. Among the issues discussed was the Keystone XL pipeline and the Administration's recent decision to delay the project which could extend well into 2013, while the various agencies examine in-depth alternative routes that would avoid the Sand Hills area of Nebraska. [See WIMS 11/14/11 & WIMS 11/11/11]. The President also addressed directly the Republican's plan to attach Keystone XL and other environmental amendments to the payroll tax bill extending tax cuts for lower income workers.
    In a release from the White House of the full text of the press briefing following the meeting of the two, President Obama said, "We did discuss the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is very important to Canada. And I think the Prime Minister and our Canadian friends understand that it's important for us to make sure that all the questions regarding the project are properly understood, especially its impact on our environment and the health and safety of the American people. And I assured him that we will have a very rigorous process to work through that issue."
    During the question and answer session, a reporter asked: I have Keystone questions for both of you. Mr. President, we've got some House Republicans who are saying they won't approve any extension of the payroll tax cut unless you move up this oil pipeline project. Is that a deal you would consider?  And also, how do you respond to their criticism that you punted this issue past the election for political reasons? And, Prime Minister Harper, you seemed to suggest the other day that politics is behind the way the Keystone issue has been handled. Do you really feel that way?
    President Obama's response: First of all, any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut I will reject. So everybody should be on notice.  And the reason is because 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.
And so my warning is not just specific to Keystone.  Efforts to tie a whole bunch of other issues to something that they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me.
    With respect to the politics, look, this is a big project with big consequences. We've seen Democrats and Republicans express concerns about it. And it is my job as President of the United States to make sure that a process is followed that examines all the options, looks at all the consequences before a decision is made.
    Now, that process is moving forward.  The State Department is making sure that it crosses all its t's and dots all its i's before making a final determination. And I think it's worth noting, for those who want to try to politicize this issue, that when it comes to domestic energy production, we have gone all in, because our belief is, is that we're going to have to do a whole range of things to make sure that U.S. energy independence exists for a long time to come -- U.S. energy security exists for a long time to come. 
So we have boosted oil production. We are boosting natural gas production.  We're looking at a lot of traditional energy sources, even as we insist on transitioning to clean energy. And I think this shouldn't be a Democratic or a Republican issue; this should be an American issue -- how do we make sure that we've got the best possible energy mix to benefit our businesses, benefit our workers, but also benefit our families to make sure that the public health and safety of the American people are looked after. And that's what this process is designed to do.
    Prime Minister Harper's response: I think my position, the position of the government of Canada, on this issue is very well known, and, of course, Barack and I have discussed that on many occasions. He's indicated to me, as he's indicated to you today, that he's following a proper project to eventually take that decision here in the United States, and that he has an open mind in regards to what the final decision may or may not be. And that's -- I take that as his answer.  And you can appreciate that I would not comment on the domestic politics of this issue or any other issue here in the United States.
    Follow-up Question to President Obama: Mr. President.  By rejecting a veto, would you veto any payroll tax cuts if it had something else on it?
    President Obama's response:  I think it's fair to say that if the payroll tax cut is attached to a whole bunch of extraneous issues not related to making sure that the American people's taxes don't go up on January 1st, then it's not something that I'm going to accept. And I don't expect to have to veto it because I expect they're going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill to do the people's business, and not try to load it up with a bunch of politics.
    On December 8, At a press conference with Republican leaders, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) highlighted ongoing efforts to extend the payroll tax break for working families and help create new American jobs by taking action on the bipartisan Keystone XL energy project. He said, "We had a great conversation with our members about an agreement that we would move a bill that would extend and reform unemployment benefits, that would extend the payroll tax credit, while preserving the Social Security Trust Fund. It would also include some of our jobs initiatives, such as the Keystone pipeline and Boiler MACT.
    "You know the president says that the American people 'can't wait' on jobs. Well guess what - we agree wholeheartedly with the president. The Keystone pipeline project will create tens of thousands of jobs immediately.  It has bipartisan support in the House and Senate.  It's pretty clear that the president's decided to push this decision off for a year – conveniently until after his next election.  Well the American people 'can't wait,' as the president said, and at a time when the American people are still asking the question 'where are the jobs?' I think this is a bipartisan proposal that the president ought to endorse."
    Access the complete release and transcript (click here). Access a video of the press briefing (click here). Access the statement and video of the Speaker's comments (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border and Regulatory Cooperation Council Initiatives (click here).[#Energy/Pipeline, #Energy/TarSands]