House, with fewer Democrats, affirms support for Keystone in highway bill

The House went on record Friday to insist that lawmakers negotiating a bicameral transportation programs funding bill include approval of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

The non-binding 261-152 vote signals political support for the pipeline in the lower chamber, but fewer Democrats went on record this time as supporting the project in the transportation bill.

Twenty-six Democrats voted Friday for Rep. John Barrow’s (D-Ga.) motion to instruct negotiators to uphold the House-approved language that authorizes the pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands crude to Gulf Coast refineries.

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In April, 69 Democrats supported the House transportation bill — a tally that GOP leaders have cited when urging inclusion of Keystone in the final House-Senate deal on a transportation package.

However, a number of Democrats said at the time that they had voted for the bill as a way to enable House-Senate negotiations to begin.

The Senate’s version of the transportation bill omits approval of the Keystone pipeline.

The White House has threatened to veto the House version of the bill, claiming more time is needed to review TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline, a project at the heart of election-season battles over energy policy.

The 261 backers for Barrow’s motion signal that Keystone supporters don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) after the vote dismissed the resolution as political posturing by Keystone supporters, saying it “put an exclamation point” on the GOP’s well-known support for the pipeline.

Markey, who opposes the pipeline, said there is a “very small” chance the Keystone pipeline would find its way into the final highway bill. He called Friday's vote good for Democrats, noting that Barrow's motion drew fewer Democratic supporters than the overall transportation bill that included the pipeline.

The House also approved a motion to instruct House conferees to accept Senate language that includes various "Buy American" provisions. That motion, from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), passed 245-169.

— Pete Kasperowicz and Andrew Restuccia contributed

— Updated at 1:22 p.m.