WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would reject any effort by Republicans to tie speedier approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to extension of the payroll tax cut.
Obama said GOP lawmakers should support extending the tax cut without regard to unrelated policy disputes.
“It shouldn't be held hostage for any other issues that they may be concerned about,” Obama said.
The president was asked about the Canada-to-Texas pipeline after a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., introduced legislation last week to require quick approval of the permit for pipeline company TransCanada.
Terry said then that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had informed GOP members the pipeline bill would be included in the tax cut extension, which must pass by the end of the year to avoid a tax increase of about $1,000 on the average family.
Terry responded to Obama's warning Wednesday by noting that Democrats also want the end-of-year package with the tax cut extension to include an extension of jobless benefits.
“I don't understand why the president wants unemployment extended, but he won't support a bill that creates American jobs,” Terry said.
The State Department has said a decision on the pipeline will be delayed until 2013 as officials examine a new route through Nebraska that would avoid the Sand Hills.
That delay was poorly received in Canada, which views the project as critical to its economy.
It also upset labor groups looking to the project to create desperately needed jobs in the construction sector.
Republicans have suggested the administration is trying to push the pipeline decision past the 2012 presidential election.
Terry and other House Republicans say that the Nebraska portion of the route can be reviewed in about six months and that construction on the rest of the pipeline should be allowed to start even sooner than that.
Environmental groups have continued to raise concerns about the potential for spills and the project's broader impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
Obama discussed the XL project Wednesday with Harper.
“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,” Obama said. “And I assured him that we will have a very rigorous process to work through that issue.”
Harper has been critical of the delay and previously suggested that American politics may be at play. But standing alongside Obama at the White House, Harper was more measured. He showed no sign that their talks had yielded any progress on the issue.
Boehner had urged Obama to use his meeting with Harper to announce his approval of the pipeline, saying, “While it might make for inconvenient politics for the president, the administration is out of excuses and running out of time.”
This report contains material from the Associated Press.