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Boehner: Republicans may link pipeline to tax bill

House Speaker John Boehner speaks during the GOP news conference on the Keystone XL pipeline decision in Washington
House Speaker John Boehner speaks during the GOP news conference on the Keystone XL pipeline decision in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday that Republicans may use an upcoming payroll tax cut bill to force President Barack Obama to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

"The Keystone pipeline is a prime example of a shovel-ready project that's been through every approval process here in Washington. Every option is on the table," Boehner said on Fox News Sunday.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure this Keystone pipeline project is approved," he said.

Asked specifically about linking the project's approval to the payroll tax cut, Boehner replied: "We may. We may."

TransCanada Corp.'s $7 billion proposed pipeline to pump crude oil 1,661 miles from Canada to Texas has become a top priority for Republicans in Congress, who are promoting the project as a vital source of jobs during economic hard times.

Renewed efforts to force a decision on Keystone, which is strongly opposed by environmentalists, could result in another showdown with the White House if the pipeline is inserted in the payroll tax bill once again.

Obama rebuffed Republicans last week when his administration turned down TransCanada's application. The White Houses said a 60-day fast-track approval schedule, imposed by Congress, was too short to give adequate attention to potential environmental impacts.

The administration left open the door, however, saying it would consider new requests to build the pipeline.

Republican leaders have been signaling they want to get the tax issue off the agenda quickly, following a public relations disaster last month when they were viewed as standing in the way a temporary tax cut extension that ultimately was enacted.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday about Keystone. Members had asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify, but Kerri-Ann Jones, the State Department official in charge of the Keystone permit, will appear instead.

(Reporting by Bill Trott and Richard Cowan; Editing by Philip Barbara)