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Keystone XL oil pipeline ensnared in political gamesmanship

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Republicans could yet try to revive the oil pipeline, perhaps by attaching it to upcoming legislation. Congress must soon take up the payroll tax cut, again, and needs to address a looming 27 percent cut in fees to physicians who treat Medicare patients, as well as whether to continue to extend federal jobless benefits.  

A conference committee set up to resolve an impasse over extending the payroll tax cuts through fiscal 2012 has set its first formal meeting for next Tuesday afternoon, upon the Senate's return. Senate Finance chairman Max Baucus (D) of Montana and House Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp (R) of Michigan, the lead negotiators, have begun informal discussions.

 Many energy-state Democrats, as well as trade unions with a stake in the project, backed the pipeline and opposed Obama’s decision to sideline it. The Laborers’ International Union of North America called the White House decision “politics at its worst.”

“Once again the president has sided with environmentalists instead of blue collar construction workers – even though environmental concerns were more than adequately addressed,” said LIUNA president Terry O’Sullivan, in a statement. “Blue collar construction workers across the US will not forget this.”

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