White House coy on Keystone veto

The White House isn't yet threatening to veto a Republican bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote MORE (R-Ky.) has said the legislation is his first priority upon taking power later this week, and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Wednesday.


But the administration is playing coy on whether the president plans to veto the package or urge Democrats to vote against the legislation.

"We'll see what the legislation actually includes before we start urging people to vote one way or the other," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday, adding that he wanted to "reserve judgment" until the administration could "actually see what language is included in that specific piece of legislation."

Earnest did outline a number of concerns that the White House had with the legislation, including "the contribution it could make to carbon pollution" and the breaking of normal procedure, where the project is evaluated by the State Department.

The White House said it was also important to wait for a Nebraska court to settle a legal challenge to the pipeline's proposed route.

"We don't want to put the cart before the horse here, and that is why, in the past, we've taken a rather dim view of legislative attempts to circumvent this well-established process," Earnest said.

During an end-of-year press conference last month, President Obama declined to say whether he would veto the bill but still outlined some of his concerns.

"I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from," the president said then. 

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that if the president does veto the legislation, Democrats would have the votes to uphold it.

“I don’t think — these amendments will make it better but certainly not good enough at this point in time — and I think there will be enough Democratic votes to sustain the president’s veto,” Schumer told CBS News.