Obama Threatens to Veto Keystone XL Bill

Republicans still aren’t backing down from the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. Their latest move is to hitch a provision to a Democrat-supported payroll-tax cut bill that would force the Obama administration to approve the pipeline construction. But Obama is promising to veto the bill if it passes:

“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll-tax cut, I will reject,” Obama told reporters Wednesday after meeting at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Obama is criticizing Republicans for allegedly holding the payroll-tax bill “hostage” with the Keystone provision. But in a lot of ways, his veto threat may actually play into Republican strategy. At the very least it would force Obama to explain the reasoning behind punting off a Keystone decision to 2013 – a move the president still denies is politically motivated.

The veto threat also undercuts Obama’s claim that he’s focusing on job creation. The payroll-tax cut extension is a key part of the president’s jobs plan, and the union-backed Keystone XL pipeline would reportedly create 20,000 new jobs. Obama, who has been out on the campaign trail admonishing Congress to focus on unemployment “right now,” would have a hard time defending any decision to block job-creating legislation passed by Congress.