POLITICS -- January 19, 2012 at 5:38 PM EDT
Rejected Keystone XL Pipeline Project at Top of Congress' Agenda
Capitol dome; file photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Congress got back to work this week, kind of. The House convened late Tuesday evening, conducted one day of legislative business on Wednesday and then left town again so the Republicans could hold a three-day retreat in Baltimore. The Senate remains in recess until next week.
While in session, House Democrats and Republicans picked up where they left off at the end of 2011, bickering about the creation of jobs or the lack thereof. President Obama rejected the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that Republicans said would create more than 20,000 jobs. The president said that the GOP forced his hand and that requiring a decision on the project by Feb. 21 did not give the State Department enough time to review the project proposal. Mr. Obama said in a statement that his decision was "not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline but the arbitrary nature of the deadline."
Speaker John Boehner said the fight is not over.
"All options are on the table," he said, adding "there are legislative vehicles that will be moving in the weeks and months ahead that Republicans could attach the pipeline language to."
Chairman of House Energy and Commerce, Fred Upton from Michigan, said he has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to come to Capitol Hill next week to testify on the project. No word if she has accepted that invitation.
In the meantime, Democrats used the time in Washington to push for Republicans to come to the table on two major issues. They want to pass an extension of the payroll tax cut and legislation that provides for additional unemployment insurance for the 14 million Americans who are out of work. The clock is ticking toward a Feb. 29 deadline on both pieces of legislation.
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said he hopes members won't wait until the last minute to work this out. At the same time, he chided House Republicans as being a "do-nothing" Congress -- one he called the most unproductive he's seen in his 30 years in Congress.
Boehner refuted that charge.
"We have passed jobs bill after jobs bill after bill, and the House has done its work. But it takes two to tango," Boehner said in a press conference. "Our members are frustrated as well" that we've got 30 bills that will help produce more American jobs sitting in the Senate," he said. "It's time for (Sen.) Harry Reid and Senate Democrats to quit playing hide the ball and instead try to help the American people get the economy moving again."
Mr. Obama delivers his annual State of the Union Address Tuesday night. The GOP has selected Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to give the nationally televised response.