Senate sets up showdown with Obama over Keystone pipeline

Senate sets up showdown with Obama over Keystone pipeline
© Greg Nash

The Senate and President Obama launched down a collision course Tuesday over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, with 60 lawmakers introducing a new bill to approve the controversial project and the White House promising to veto it.

The White House said Obama “wouldn’t sign” legislation being considered by both chambers hours after Sens. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP to reduce tax relief by 0B to win over deficit hawks  The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.) introduced their legislation, citing ongoing litigation in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route through that state.

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“Once that is resolved, that should speed the completion of the evaluation of that project,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of the Nebraska case.

Republicans in the Senate who had promised to make Keystone their first piece of business immediately fired back, using the White House threat to cast Obama as an opponent of bipartisanship.

“The president threatening to veto the first bipartisan infrastructure bill of the new Congress must come as a shock to the American people who spoke loudly in November in favor of bipartisan accomplishments,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.).

The bill now has 54 Republican and six Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (N.D.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Mo.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP defeats Schumer bid to delay tax vote MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (Ind.).

They also say three other Democrats, Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Dems look to use Moore against GOP MORE Jr. (Pa.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Overnight Cybersecurity: Mueller probe cost .7M in early months | Senate confirms Homeland Security nominee | Consumer agency limits data collection | Arrest in Andromeda botnet investigation Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (Del.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight MORE (Colo.), who voted to approve the Canada-to-Texas pipeline in November, are likely to back it.

Those 63 votes would be more than enough to send a bill to Obama. But it’s not enough support to override a veto.

A few Democrats joined Republicans in expressing disappointment with the White House.

“I am disappointed that the president will not allow this Congress to turn over a new leaf and engage in the legislative process to improve an important piece of legislation,” Manchin said. 

He called the veto threat “premature,” arguing the administration should have waited until amendments were offered to decide whether to issue the threat.

Environmental groups have made stopping the Keystone pipeline their No. 1 issue, putting pressure on Obama and liberal Democrats to stop it in its tracks. 

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Ill.) on Tuesday derailed a planned Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Keystone legislation by objecting to it on the Senate floor.

Given Durbin’s move, it was unclear whether the panel would mark up the legislation on Thursday.

Other Democrats questioned, with gas prices at new lows, why Republicans are pushing a pipeline that green groups warn could lead to environmentally damaging oil spills.

“With gas prices falling, and domestic oil supplies rising, one has to wonder why Congressional Republicans would use their first chance to prove they can get things done on a Canadian export pipeline that is dead before it ever even gets a vote,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNet neutrality supporters predict tough court battle over FCC's repeal plan Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Driverless car bill hits Senate speed bump MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement.