Well, it's official. An intransigent GOP faction in the House of Representatives finally agreed to a 2-month stopgap extension of an important payroll tax cut for the middle class. The much-ballyhooed payroll tax cut bill that passed the House today includes, as we knew it would, a provision that forces the president's hand on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. President Obama now has 60 days to approve or deny the controversial project.
While this move, the result of back room dealing between the GOP and Big Oil, has alarmed farmers, environmentalists and concerned citizens who have spent the last six months publicly organizing and peacefully fighting against the proposed project, there's reason to believe it could be a blessing in disguise. As Mat pointed out earlier, when the Keystone XL provision was first getting tacked onto the payroll tax cut bill, this may end up simply dooming the project much earlier than anyone expected.
There's no way that the promised environmental review can be completed in that short of a time frame.
Jane Kleeb, one of the leading organizers of BOLD Nebraska, which has been fighting the pipeline in a state that stands to be most threatened by it, sent me the following statement:
"Speaker Boehner is trying to satisfy Big Oil’s lobbyists and some of the GOP’s top corporate donors by forcing the president to make a hasty decision, but it will backfire. I am confident that President Obama will stand up to big oil and reject this dangerous and unnecessary pipeline because it is the right thing to do, and that the American public will support him. Americans understand that it is wrong to play political games and strip families of our right to protect our land and our clean water from foreign oil companies, because you can’t drink oil."
Again, see Mat's piece for more details on this logic, which does seem to hold up. Obama now has a perfectly reasonable excuse to deny the pipeline, to place blame on the Republicans for playing fast and loose with Americans' public health, and to score some direly needed points with his progressive base.
After all, if Obama does for some reason approve the pipeline after promising a thorough, lengthy review, he'll spur outrage and disillusion amongst his most active, organized and fervent supporters. And he simply can't afford to do that in an election year.