Energy & Environment

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 Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced their legislation, citing ongoing litigation in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route through that state.

{mosads}“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 McConnell (R-Ky.).

The bill now has 54 Republican and six Democratic co-sponsors: Sens. Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Mark Warner (Va.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

They also say three other Democrats, Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Michael Bennet (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 Durbin (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 Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement.

Tags Bob Casey Claire McCaskill Dick Durbin Ed Markey Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John Hoeven Jon Tester Keystone XL Mark Warner Michael Bennet Mitch McConnell Tom Carper
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