Congressional leaders reached a deal late Friday on the payroll tax cut extension. The deal, which still requires approval by both the House of Representatives and Senate includes a provision that the President must approve the XL Keystone Pipeline or declare it is not in the national interest. President Obama delayed the decision earlier until after the 2012 election quoting that more environmental impact impact evaluations were needed. Two exhaustive studies have already been completed, which found very little impact on the environment.
House Speaker John Boehner had said earlier that the House of Representatives would not look at a bill without the XL Keystone Pipeline in it.
Under the separate Senate agreement on the payroll tax, the rate paid by 160 million workers would remain at 4.2 percent through February, rather than reverting to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1.
Benefits for the long-term unemployed would also be extended for two months and scheduled cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors would also be postponed.
Congress must approve the language requiring that a construction permit be issued for the XL Keystone Pipeline within 60 days unless the president determined the pipeline was not in the national interest.
Environmentalists immediately criticized the deal stating that it was an example of House Republicans holding the federal government hostage on behalf of the oil industry.
Critics had claimed earlier that the president had bowed to environmentalist when he delayed the decision in order to serve his own political agenda. Michelle Bachmann was to the point at the FOX News GOP Iowa debate last night when she was blunt and stated that the president had placed his re-election ahead of America. All GOP candidates were in favor of proceeding with the construction of the pipeline.
While this deal will be voted on on Saturday morning, there will be another fight in two months when the extension is due to expire. For now the Democrats have given up the demand to tax the so-called rich and have bowed to including the pipeline.
Update: The Senate passed the Pay Roll Tax Cut extension for two months on Saturday morning by a vote of 89-10. The bill includes the XL Keystone Pipeline, which has to be approved or have the President declare that the pipeline is not in the national interest.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on Saturday passed a compromise measure extending a workers tax holiday and jobless benefits, but further denting President Barack Obama’s authority by forcing him to look again at a contentious pipeline plan.
A deal on the measure, which passed easily 89 votes to 10 in the upper chamber of Congress, had been forged the previous day and could end a bitter, year-end standoff between Republicans and Democrats.
But in effect it will simply set battle-lines of a new fight over the same issues in the hothouse atmosphere of election year 2012.
The House of Representatives could take up the bill on Monday, at the end of a frenetic period of maneuvering between the White House and its Republican foes.
Though Obama will achieve his goal of ensuring that U.S. workers do not get a tax hike on January 1, the extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits will last only two months, not the year he had originally pushed for.
“In order to achieve something around here, you have to compromise,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said minutes before the vote. The Province