Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The Senate can sure move fast when they want to get the hell out of town. They voted this morning to provide a two-month extension for the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and the Medicare reimbursement formula preventing a cut in fees to doctors. The vote was 89-10.
The deal, of course, includes the Republicans FU to President Obama, a provision that would attempt to force his hand in making an expedited permit decision on the pipeline.
The deal includes House-passed language to expedite construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. But Democratic aides said this concession would have the effect of killing the project because the Obama administration has said it would not grant approval on a truncated timeline. [...]
The entire cost of the backstop legislation is a little less than $30 billion, according to a senior Republican lawmaker briefed on the deal. It would be covered entirely by increasing the fees that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge mortgage lenders to guarantee repayments of new mortgage loans, Senate sources said.
Of course this doesn't mean that construction on the pipeline itself will be expedited, it's just intended to make Obama look bad at the beginning of an election year. When it's denied, as the State Department has already said would happen if forced to have to decide in just 60 days, Republicans can screech about his killing jobs. If he overrules the State Department, a possible but unlikely outcome, then Republicans can watch his base explode. Their favorite pastime.
And, anyway, we'll back here in two months with the Republicans extracting their next grimy little concession out of the mess.