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 Henry HoevenMcConnell ups pressure on White House to get a budget deal Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data Overnight Energy: Bipartisan Senate group seeks more funding for carbon capture technology | Dems want documents on Interior pick's lobbying work | Officials push to produce more electric vehicle batteries in US MORE (R-N.D.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (R-Ky.).

The bill now has 54 Republican and six Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (N.D.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Mo.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing MORE (Va.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives Democratic senators want candidates to take Swalwell's hint and drop out MORE (Mont.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (Ind.).

They also say three other Democrats, Sens. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research MORE Jr. (Pa.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to science boards MORE (Del.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate Bullock makes CNN debate stage Sanders draws line as 2020 health care battle heats up 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business 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 MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei Senators press FTC over 'woefully inadequate' Facebook settlement MORE (D-Mass.) said in a statement.