Legislation sponsored by Montana’s U. S. Rep. Denny Rehberg to speed up the decision on an oil pipeline that would run through Montana has been tied to a bill that would extend payroll tax cuts set to expire Dec. 31.
Rehberg, a Republican, said Friday that his bill, a companion to legislation introduced by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., should be quickly passed and signed into law. President Barack Obama’s decision to delay a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election has drawn outcries from supporters and warnings from the Canadian government that it might pursue other options.
“This decision should be made in the interest of thousands of Americans who need jobs, not the political convenience of President Obama and his special interest friends, ” Rehberg said in a press release. “Over three years, this process has run its course. It’s time to make a decision. I hope the president will do the right thing and stand up for the creation of American jobs. ”
Obama delayed a decision on approving a permit for the pipeline, which would ship oil from Alberta, Canada, into the United States, after Nebraska’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman, requested a delay due to environmental concerns.
Rehberg’s bill is one of several issues tacked on to the extension of the payroll tax cuts, which Obama has said is crucial to continuing the economic recovery in the United States.
Obama specifically listed tying the pipeline approval to the payroll tax cuts as a deal-killer.
“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject, ” Obama said Wednesday.
He said tying any extraneous issues to a bill that is “something they should be doing anyway will be rejected by me. ”
Rehberg said the legislation will not force Obama to approve the pipeline if doing so is not in the national interest, but require a timely decision — work on planning its construction began three years ago, Rehberg added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Obama will not have to exercise his veto on the bill.
“If the House sends us their bill with Keystone on it, they are just wasting valuable time because it will not pass the Senate, ” Reid said Friday.
Rehberg and Montana’s Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester all have spoken in support of the pipeline. Baucus and Tester said at the end of November that they support the pipeline, as long as its construction includes protecting the environment and private property holders.
Rehberg is running against Tester in the 2012 Senate election.
The House bill to extend the payroll tax holidaythat Rebherg’s bill is attached to basically is a replay of a bill that failed to pass the Senate last week.
Both Republicans and Democrats generally agree that the bill should prevent the Jan. 1 expiration of payroll tax cuts and of extra coverage for the long-term unemployed, and implement a “doc fix, ” preventing mandated cuts in payments to doctors for treating Medicare patients.
But the devil is in the details. House Republicans are calling for a smaller cut in payroll taxes — keeping the rate at the 4.2 percent implemented last year. Last year the rate was reduced from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent.
The 4.2 percent would save taxpayers earning $50,000 a year $1,000 in payroll taxes.
Obama also called for cuts in the payroll taxes payed by the businesses.
The Republican bill would gradually reduce the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment benefits to 59 weeks by mid-2012, coverage many Democrats consider too short with the current weak economy.
Some 2 million jobless people would lose unemployement benefits by February if the extension is not renewed.
Another fighting point on the bill is how the House proposes to pay for it.
Democrats support implementing a surtax on millionaires, which is not in the Republican House bill.
Instead, the bill is paid for by extending a freeze on federal employees’ pay through 2012 and other provisions including cutting about $21 billion from Obama's health care overhaul by tightening rules for tax credits that will help pay premiums for the uninsured and by squeezing a fund for preventive care.
The Republican payroll tax bill also has other provisions, including stopping a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule regulating emissions from industrial incinerators and boilers.
It also would:
• Limit where welfare recipients could spend their benefits by preventing ATMs at strip clubs and other establishments from reading the electronic cards through which most people on welfare receive their monthly payments.
• Require people receiving unemployment benefits to try getting a high school diploma or an equivalent and join programs aimed at helping them get new jobs.
• Raise fees the government-run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge to guarantee mortgages they buy from lenders, and sell portions of the broadcast spectrum.
• Bar millionaires from collecting food stamps and unemployment benefits, saving $20 million.
• Let businesses deduct the full cost of their equipment investments in as little as one year.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.