Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline cleared a procedural hurdle on Monday in a 63-32 vote, overcoming a filibuster and setting up debate on the controversial bill.
The Senate is expected to begin debate on the bill on Tuesday, but votes on amendments aren't expected until sometime next week.
"This evening’s vote means it will now advance to the floor for open debate and every member will have an opportunity to offer amendments they believe will strengthen the bill," said Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenHouse passes legislation to strengthen federal cybersecurity workforce The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-N.D.), a lead co-sponsor of the bill.
Monday's vote handed Republicans their first victory as the newly empowered majority in the Senate. Fifty-two Republicans, 10 Democrats and one independent booted to allow the bill to advance. All votes in opposition were cast by Democrats.
Proponents of Keystone say they will have 63 votes backing the bill, nine of which are Democrats.
A final vote on the bill likely won't come until later in January, a GOP aide told The Hill.
Republicans are eager to send the bill to President Obama's desk despite the administration issuing a veto threat.
The White House said last week that if the Keystone legislation is sent to Obama "he will veto the bill," arguing it would circumvent the ongoing process at the State Department.
"As we have made clear, we are going to let that process play out," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
On Friday, the pipeline overcame a key hurdle when the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a law used by the governor to approve the pipeline's route through the state.
Republicans argue the high court's decision makes it the perfect time to bring the bill to the floor.
"We'll be starting the Senate's debate at a time when the rationale for building this pipeline has almost never been more obvious," McConnell said.
"At the end of this process, we'll send bipartisan jobs bill to the president."