The GOP’s biggest weapon in the fight for Keystone is the upcoming negotiations over extending a 2 percent reduction in the payroll taxes paid by 160 million working Americans. Republicans are likely to attach a pipeline permit measure to the legislation extending that tax cut.

Congressional Republicans in December agreed to extend the payroll tax cut through February, when it will end unless Congress agrees to another extension. They also will consider extending unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to doctors through the rest of the year.

Republicans also haven’t ruled out trying to strip Obama of his authority to approve the permit and transfer it instead to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is writing a separate bill that would give Congress the sole authority to grant or deny transcontinental pipeline permits, including Keystone’s.

The House is scheduled to hold hearings on their Keystone legislation next week.

“We are absolutely committed … to keep the Keystone XL pipeline on the front burner,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich.

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