* Republicans include pipeline in highway funding bill
* Obama previously put pipeline project on hold
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, April 17 The White House on Tuesday
renewed its threat to veto legislation to fund U.S.
transportation projects responsible for millions of jobs if it
includes the politically charged Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil
Republicans in the House of Representatives have included
the pipeline in a bill that proposes a 90-day extension of
funding for highway, bridge, and transit construction. The House
is expected to vote on the legislation on
In a statement on the proposal, presidential advisers said
the legislation would circumvent "longstanding and proven
process" for determining whether pipelines are in the national
It said mandating the pipeline before a new route was
"submitted and assessed" would prompt a recommendation that
President Barack Obama veto the long-delayed transportation
legislation, said to be crucial for the economy.
Obama earlier this year put a hold on TransCanada's
$7 billion project, designed to bring crude oil from Canada and
North Dakota to Texas refineries, because he said it needed
further environmental review in Nebraska.
Obama does, however, support development of the southern leg
of the pipeline that would run from the Cushing, Oklahoma,
storage hub to Texas.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, has made Keystone
a cornerstone of his election-year jobs agenda. But the measure
was part of a larger transportation plan that crumbled in the
House this year due to a lack of Republican support.
House Republicans, in their new, scaled-back transportation
plan, backed away from controversial provisions in the ill-fated
bill to expand oil and gas drilling and use related revenues for
road and transit construction. They also dropped an unpopular
plan to decouple transit spending from its dedicated funding
The House will consider a handful of amendments to the
latest proposal on Wednesday. Current highway spending expires
Obama's initial veto threat of the House transportation bill
in February covered the energy and transit measures favored by
Republicans continue to sharply criticize Obama's decision
on Keystone XL and again are pushing for the full project,
saying it would create jobs and bring more oil to the United
States at a time of surging gasoline prices.
In a vote that included some Democratic support, Republicans
in the Senate narrowly failed in March to attach the Keystone
provision to a two-year, $109 billion transportation bill that
was later approved by the chamber.
If the House clears the latest stop-gap funding plan,
negotiators from that chamber would join with Senate colleagues
to form a conference committee to try to craft a compromise
"I think the House will bring it (Keystone) back and the
objective is to get to conference with it," said Senator John
Hoeven from North Dakota, a Republican who led the effort in the
Senate to approve the pipeline.
Hoeven said he is optimistic the Keystone measure would
survive House-Senate conference negotiations because it nearly
cleared the Senate.
House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said Congress must
complete a transportation spending bill soon.
"We need to get confidence and stability to the economy to
the business community, we need to make sure that we get jobs
the highway bill does produce," Hoyer said.