Boehner: Keystone XL to Ride on GOP's Highway Bill

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Truck hauling pipeline pipe in Kansas (photo by Steve Meirowsky via Wikimedia Commons)

House Republicans intend to use their upcoming highway and infrastructure bill to push for approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, Speaker John Boehner said Sunday.

“If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it,” Boehner said during an interview on ABC's "This Week".

The controversial pipeline has become a political flashpoint between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans demanded an expedited Obama Administration decision on the pipeline's approval as part of a deal temporarily extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits back in December. The administration rejected the approval earlier this month, setting off GOP criticism that President Obama's political allies were preventing a project that could grow jobs.

House and Senate negotiators are now bargaining over a one-year payroll tax extension, and Boehner's statement suggests Republicans are keen to avoid another bruising confrontation with Democrats over the pipeline issue.

“[E]xtending the payroll tax cut that the president has called for, the House has already passed the year-long extension.  We are in a formal conference with the Senate, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to resolve this fairly quickly," Boehner said.

Instead, it appears Keystone may become one of a long list of domestic energy projects Republicans try to promote in their upcoming highway and infrastructure bill. The five-year bill calls for $260 billion in highway funding, financed partially through expansions in domestic energy production. Details of the bill are expected this week, and House Republican aides say they expect it to come to the floor in February.

Follow Todd Zwillich on Twitter @toddzwillich