Hoyer: Job Creating Keystone Pipeline a ‘Stick in the Eye’ of House Democrats

By Matt Cover | December 13, 2011 | 3:42 PM EST

House Minority Whip Steny hoyer (D-Md.). (AP Photo.)

(CNSNews.com) – House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the Keystone XL oil pipeline project would only create five to six thousand jobs and that Republican efforts to force a vote on the project were a “stick in the eye” of Democrats who oppose it.

“This is five thousand to six thousand jobs,” Hoyer said at his weekly press briefing on Tuesday. “This is a stick in the eye [for Democrats].”

CNSNews.com asked Hoyer how Democrats could oppose the Keystone project after they had included numerous infrastructure and energy projects in their 2009 stimulus law and after President Barack Obama had called for more private-sector investment in job creation.

Hoyer said that Republicans’ efforts to force a vote on the project by attaching it to legislation that would extend the payroll tax cuts enacted last year was a partisan tactic that would insert a “controversial” issue into a bill it has nothing to do with.

He also said there was “no analogy” to past Democratic support for such projects.

“I don’t think it has any analogy to anything other than a clear, politically motivated effort to make this a controversial bill, which would appeal to some of their most conservative members who don’t give one whit about compromise,” said Hoyer.

Republicans are hoping to force Democrats to speed up the project, after the State Department – at President Obama’s behest – delayed a decision on the project until after the 2012 election.

Map shows existing and proposed extension of Keystone XL pipeline. (TransCanada)

The pipeline, which would bring crude oil from Canada to American refineries in Texas, is a controversial issue for Democrats because it splits their caucus among pro-pipeline unions desperate for the blue-collar jobs it would create and environmentalists who oppose expanding the oil industry and fear the pipeline will damage the environment.

Obama’s decision in November to have the State Department delay approval for the project until after the election relieves him of the pressure to choose between two competing liberal interest groups whose help he will need as he seeks reelection.

His Democratic allies in Congress apparently are in no hurry to make that choice either. House Republicans and dozens of House Democrats united to pass a bill in July that would have kept the pipeline on schedule, but that bill died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Now, House Republicans are hoping to force a Senate vote by attaching the Keystone project to legislation that would extend the payroll tax cuts that expire this year.

With time running out before Americans face an unpopular tax hike, Republicans hope to get a vote on the Keystone issue.

The Keystone XL pipeline is expected to generate at least 20,000 jobs, according to TransCanada. According to the company, “TransCanada is poised to put 13,000 Americans to work to construct the pipeline -- pipefitters, welders, mechanics, electricians, heavy equipment operators, among other jobs -- in addition to 7,000 manufacturing jobs that would be created across the U.S.  Additionally, local businesses along the pipeline route will benefit from the 118,000 spin-off jobs Keystone XL will create through increased business for local goods and service providers.”