House backs bill to speed oil pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) - Sensing a political opening, House Republicans on Tuesday approved a plan that links speedy approval of an oil pipeline from Canada to a measure renewing a payroll tax cut.

The vote sets up a showdown with President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto the bill. The White House says the bill "plays politics" with what should be its main goal: cutting taxes for the middle class.

Republicans said the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas would help the president achieve his top priority - creating jobs - without costing a dime of taxpayer money. Obama's opposition shows he does not mean what he says when he calls jobs his top priority, GOP lawmakers said.

"The American people want jobs," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "This is as close to a shovel-ready project as you're ever going to see. This is exactly the description of the kind of jobs plans that the president says he wants to enact."

The House approved the bill, 234-193, Tuesday night. Ten Democrats joined 224 Republicans in backing the bill.

The measure would require approval of the $7 billion project within two months unless Obama declares it is not in the national interest.

The Obama administration said last month it was postponing a decision on the pipeline until after next year's election. Officials said the delay is needed to study routes that avoid environmentally sensitive areas of Nebraska.

The 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil from western Canada to refineries in Texas, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The project's developer, Calgary-based TransCanada, says the pipeline could create as many as 20,000 jobs, including 13,000 during construction and 7,000 manufacturing jobs.

Opponents call those figures wildly inflated and say the project could create as few as 2,500 construction job and fewer than 1,000 permanent jobs. The State Department, in an analysis released this summer, said the pipeline would create up to 6,000 jobs during construction, including Keystone employees, contractors and construction and environmental inspection staff.


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