House approves Keystone XL

Francis Rivera

The House on Friday passed a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline hours after a Nebraska court ruled in favor of the proposed route.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be approves. The White House has warned President Obama would veto the legislation. 

Passage fell largely along party lines, 266-153, with 28 Democrats joining nearly all Republicans in favor. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) voted “present.” That is short of the necessary two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

{mosads}The vote marked the 10th time the House has voted to authorize the Keystone pipeline in the last four years, and the third time in sixth months.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate would hold a cloture vote on Monday evening. 

The Senate legislation has 60 co-sponsors, the minimum needed for a filibuster-proof majority. Sponsors of the bill say an additional three Democrats have indicated support for the legislation, bringing votes in favor of the $8 billion oil sands project to 63. 

But that still falls below the necessary 67 votes for a veto-proof majority.

McConnell said he expects the Senate to pass the legislation and wants it to be the first item sent to Obama’s desk by the 114th Congress. Republicans have control of both the Senate and House for the first time since 2006.

Nebraska’s Supreme Court added fuel to the fire on Friday by reversing a lower court ruling, upholding a 2012 law giving authority to the governor to approve Keystone’s route through the state.

The decision handed down on Friday morning clears a key hurdle for the Canada-to-Texas project. 

Republicans argued the ruling was simply an excuse for the Obama administration to avoid the pipeline.

“The administration has said that [pending case in Nebraska] was the major hurdle. It has fallen. So I hope the president is not going to establish another hurdle, that being himself,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman.

But Democrats dismissed GOP claims the pipeline would create American jobs, arguing it would pose environmental risks and primarily help a Canadian energy company.

“We take risk to our lands, the American people face threats to their health, and TransCanada gets to reap the rewards. That’s not a winning formula for our country or the economy,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). 

Both sides are urging the president to immediately restart Keystone’s ongoing permit review process at the State Department, and make a decision on the pipeline’s fate. 

The administration pushed back on Friday, arguing more time is needed.

“Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures … and if presented to the president, he will veto the bill,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the White House.

Tags Justin Amash Keystone XL pipeline Mitch McConnell

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