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 HoevenMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty McCain diagnosis looms over GOP healthcare talks This week: ObamaCare repeal faces latest setback in Senate MORE (R-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Pressure on Trump grows as Kushner is questioned Kushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts 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 McConnellMitch McConnellMcCain returning to Senate in time for health vote Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Overnight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid MORE (R-Ky.).

The bill now has 54 Republican and six Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Manchin, Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampRegulatory experts push Senate leaders for regulatory reform Why governors hold power in the battle for GOP healthcare votes Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (N.D.), Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillMattis rips Pentagon officials for M wasted on Afghanistan camouflage Pentagon to address M spent on untested Afghan camouflage: report Federal Election Commission must not shy away from Russia probe MORE (Mo.), Mark WarnerMark WarnerKushner says he did not collude with Russia, had no improper contacts Dems to unveil ‘better deal’ messaging campaign Monday Talk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows MORE (Va.), Jon TesterJon TesterVulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 'Kate's Law' battle shifts to the Senate, testing Dems Democrats go in for the kill on ObamaCare repeal MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyIndiana GOP rep: Likely primary opponent 'lying about my family' Dem senator to sell stock in family company that uses outsourced labor Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (Ind.).

They also say three other Democrats, Sens. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE Jr. (Pa.), Tom CarperTom CarperGovernors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare Overnight Healthcare: GOP'S repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate Dem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes MORE (Del.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetTax credits bring much needed relief Senate Dem: No clarity, 'little competence' behind travel ban Dems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill 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 DurbinDick DurbinSenate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Top Dem: Trump’s voter fraud commission will accomplish what Putin wants Senators who have felt McCain's wrath talk of their respect for him 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 MarkeyEd MarkeyOPINION | Shailene Woodley: US should run on renewable energy by 2050 Dems urge 'transparent and inclusive' nuke policy review Senate confirms former Boeing VP as deputy Defense secretary MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement.