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GOP Insistence on Pipeline Provision Could Derail Spending Bill

December 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
The House passed a $1 trillion spending bill Friday to fund much of the government through next September and avoid a federal shutdown this weekend, but both parties remain split over how to extend a payroll tax cut. Jim Lehrer reports.

JIM LEHRER: Congress moved today to approve a federal spending bill that keeps the government running for the rest of the year. At the same time, bargaining continued over a payroll tax cut extension.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: On this vote, the yeas are 296, the nays are 121. The conference report is adopted.

JIM LEHRER: With that, the House sent the Senate a trillion-dollar bill to fund much of the government through next September and prevent a federal shutdown this weekend.

Republican Hal Rogers of Kentucky chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

REP. HAL ROGERS R-Ky.: Mr. Speaker, after weeks of arduous negotiations on this package with our Senate counterparts, we have struck a fair bipartisan compromise. No party got everything they wanted, but we have found a reasonable, responsible balance between reduced spending, wise federal investments, and policy changes that American businesses need to thrive.

JIM LEHRER: The agreement on spending shifted the discussion to extending the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans, along with extending long-term jobless benefits. Both are due to expire on Dec. 31.

But Republicans continued to demand that any extension bill also call for starting construction on the Keystone oil pipeline to run from Canada to Texas. They said it would create thousands of jobs.

President Obama wants to delay the project for further environmental studies, but, today, House Speaker John Boehner was adamant against waiting.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: If that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it, and I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.

JIM LEHRER: Democrats condemned Republicans for insisting on the pipeline, despite the president’s opposition.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer:

REP. STENY HOYER D-Md., House minority whip: They have added an item that the president says he’s going to veto, contrary to their pledge to America, and their pledge to America said they would not add extraneous matter to must-pass bills.

JIM LEHRER: Later, a White House spokesman declined to repeat that veto threat. In case an agreement cannot be reached, there was talk of a possible plan B: a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut that would come with a $40 billion price tag.