House to act first on Keystone

The House will vote Friday on legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting the stage for a showdown with President Obama.

Friday’s vote will mark at least the tenth time the House has voted to authorize the pipeline in four years, and the third time in six months. But unlike previous years, the bill will be sent to a Senate that is under Republican control — and that has made approving the project priority No. 1.

{mosads}The Senate plans to take up a Keystone bill next week, starting with a cloture vote on Monday evening. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged to bring the measure to the floor under an open amendment process that could stretch on for days or even weeks.

The White House has threatened to veto the Keystone bill, arguing it would undermine the State Department’s review and pending litigation in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route.

“In doing so, it would cut short consideration of important issues relevant to the national interest,” the administration said in a statement of policy.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans have blasted the Obama administration’s multiple veto threats against Keystone and the healthcare bills in the early days of the new Congress.

“Given the chance to start with a burst of bipartisan productivity, the president turned his back on the American people’s priorities,” Boehner said at a Thursday press conference.

The agenda of the House’s first week of the new Congress has been largely devoted to reprising legislation it considered in the last session. Members have already passed two bills to change the 2010 healthcare overhaul in the first three days back in Washington.

The difference this time is that the bills are virtually guaranteed to get votes in the Senate.

Passage of the House Keystone bill is likely to fall along party lines, though a significant number of Democrats are expected to vote for it.

Thirty-one Democrats joined all Republicans to pass a similar Keystone bill in the most recent vote in November, which was meant to help then-Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) Senate bid. Most of those Democrats were centrists in competitive districts.

In the Senate, the new Keystone measure has secured a filibuster-proof majority with support from several Democrats.

Neither the House nor Senate appear to have enough votes on Keystone to override a presidential veto, however. 

The Keystone pipeline would carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Supporters say the project would bolster the nation’s energy security and create jobs, while detractors fear the project’s impact on climate change and the environment.

The project has strong backing from business groups and some unions that are typically aligned with Democrats.

—Laura Barron-Lopez contributed.

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