Just as popular television shows often go on hiatus for the holidays, so our nation’s greatest political drama is now back for a new season. And measured purely in terms of entertainment value, it looks to be a good one.

The new Congress had barely been sworn in Tuesday when President Barack Obama issued his first veto threat. In the president’s crosshairs is a planned bill that would finally approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill, which is expected to receive bi-partisan support, is set for a vote in the Senate soon.

You’ll note, though, that while President Obama says he will veto the bill, he isn’t formally opposing the Keystone project either. Rather, he wants to wait for the results of yet more study of the matter before he makes up his mind.

Last year, I wrote about why the Keystone issue never seemed to be resolved one way or the other. Despite broad popular support, the Obama administration never seemed able to even make up its own mind about the project, and was dead set against the issue being resolved in Congress. I posited that Keystone was a prime example of what author Peter Schweizer calls a “milker bill,” a regulation or law that is designed neither to pass nor to fail, but to be left perpetually hanging, so as to drum up political donations and support.

For Democrats, Keystone represents what Schweizer calls a “double milker.” Key Democratic constituencies are opposed to Keystone (e.g. the environmental movement) while others favor it (e.g. organized labor). Making a definitive decision either way would risk alienating one of them. It’s far better to just put off a decision for as long as possible and let both sides do their best to win you over. All this can make for good political theater. In policy terms, it is becoming a serious problem.

Will the fate of the Keystone pipeline finally be decided? Tune in next time to find out.

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