Keystone XL is back from the dead. After President Obama announced a delay in a final decision on the tar-sands pipeline, House Republicans’ first gambit was to try to speed up that process. But now, they have a more sinister plan: They are trying to force through wholesale approval of the pipeline project.

They're doing this by attaching pipeline approval to a bill that's near and dear to the president's heart — payroll tax breaks. Payroll tax breaks are pretty sweet! They make it easier for people to start businesses or hire new workers, because social security and Medicaid taxes are lower. They also have nothing to do with tar sands. But the president wants them, so the House is taking them hostage and using them to bargain for the pipeline.

The White House's official line on the rider is that the president rejects the proposal. But press secretary Jay Carney won't say explicitly that the president will veto the bill. Bill McKibben’s is trying to call attention to this backroom dealing, but at this point the power has shifted from the people to the politicians. Meanwhile, TransCanada, the company that's building the pipeline, is feeling confident enough about the project that it announced an extension to Houston. And Montana just gave the company the permits it needs to build the pipeline in that state. Happy holidays?

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