Keystone veto? White House ducks

Keystone veto? White House ducks
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The White House on Tuesday sidestepped the question of whether President Obama would veto a Senate bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Asked repeatedly if the president would put the kibosh on the legislation, White House press secretary Josh Earnest would say only that he did not want to leave reporters with the "impression" the president was leaving his options open.

"I’m not in a position to issue veto threats from here, but … there are similar pieces of legislation that have been introduced in this Congress where the president’s senior advisers have recommended a veto," Earnest said.

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Earnest was unequivocal, however, on Obama’s opposition to the bill.

"The State Department is the proper venue for reaching this determination," Earnest said, adding that "it certainly is a piece of legislation that the president doesn't support."

The bill appears one vote shy of the 60 needed for a filibuster-proof majority, but the White House offered no prediction of how the vote would turn out.

"I know that some supporters of the proposal say that they have the votes necessary to pass the bill," Earnest said. "But, you know, they’ll put the bill on the floor tonight and I guess we’ll all find out."

The White House also evaded questions as to whether the president's veto was intended as a bargaining tactic ahead of Republicans taking control of the Senate in January.

By that logic, the administration would pocket veto the bill for now, but offer approval to the GOP-controlled Congress in exchange for one of the president's priorities next year.

"That presupposes that it's going to pass in the Senate [on Tuesday]," Earnest said. "So I think we'll probably wait and see what happens in the Senate, and see whether or not … this comes to the president's desk before we sort of make decisions about the next steps."

The White House spokesman did acknowledge it was "probably fair to say" that the administration was thinking about some of those next steps.