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Keystone XL pipeline: a jobs coup for Republicans in tax deal?

A congressional deal to preserve a payroll tax cut, approved by the Senate Saturday, contains a provision designed to force President Obama's hand on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Protesters opposed to the controversial 1,600-mile Keystone XL pipeline surrounded the White House on November 6, 2011. Environmental groups say that extracting oil from the sands would generate huge greenhouse gas emissions, and that any accident on the route could be disastrous.

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A congressional deal to preserve a payroll tax cut for working Americans, approved by the US Senate Saturday, also contains a provision designed to force President Obama's hand on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Republicans who pushed for the provision say the pipeline would be a slam-dunk win for a US economy that desperately needs jobs.

It now appears that when a bill lands on Mr. Obama's desk, with tax cuts that the president endorses as his own way to boost the economy, it will also include a call for him to decide within 60 days whether the Keystone pipeline for Canadian oil should be built.

Senate Republicans insisted the pipeline provision be included in the tax bill. The measure still needs a vote of approval in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The pipeline, which would create jobs but angers environmentalists, has become a political flashpoint in recent months. 

The Monitor's Weekly news Quiz 12/11-12/16

In November, Obama announced his intent to delay a decision until after the 2012 election, thus averting a difficult political dilemma. 

Approving the plans of the Canadian firm TransCanada would have run afoul of environmentalists worried about threats to the massive Ogallala aquifer, which the pipeline would run past. Even Republicans in Nebraska have voiced opposition to the planned path of the project for that reason. 

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