Energy & Environment

Obama vetoes Keystone XL bill


President Obama on Tuesday vetoed legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, rebuffing the new Republican-led Congress amid a furious battle over Homeland Security funding.

The veto — just the third of Obama’s presidency and his first of major legislation — was made in private and without fanfare, reflecting tensions in the Democratic Party over whether the controversial pipeline should be approved.

“Through this bill the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” Obama said in his veto statement. [READ OBAMA’S VETO STATEMENT.]

{mosads}“The presidential power to veto is one I take seriously … and because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety and environment — it has earned my veto.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ripped the veto, calling it a “national embarrassment.”

“The president is just too close to environmental extremists to stand up for America’s workers. He’s too invested in left-fringe politics to do what presidents are called on to do, and that’s put the national interest first,” Boehner said.

Republicans held back the Keystone bill until Tuesday to prevent Obama from rejecting it while they were away from Washington on recess, and they will now attempt to override the veto with votes in the House and Senate.

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), tweeted that the attempt at a veto override “will happen no later than March the 3rd.”

“Even though the president has yielded to powerful special interests, this veto doesn’t end the debate. Americans should know that the new Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas, including this one,” McConnell said in a statement.

The veto of Keystone opens a new chapter in the Obama presidency, with Republicans vowing to use their majorities in the House and Senate to send the president a flurry of legislative proposals, many of which he opposes.

The White House has wielded the veto threat early and often since Republicans won control of Congress, but Obama’s willingness to cut down legislation will be put to the test in the coming months.

Republicans believe the vetoes will backfire and have begun to cast the president as obstructionist and unwilling to compromise.

The swift demise of the Keystone bill, while sparking a storm of criticism from Republicans and the business community, could help Obama keep the focus on the looming shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, which is set to begin at midnight Friday.

While the shutdown fight is intensifying on Capitol Hill, Republicans promise they won’t let Keystone drop and appear ready to try their hand at staging a veto override — something that hasn’t happened in Congress since the George W. Bush years.

It’s a risky option, and almost certain to fail. Republicans appear short of the two-thirds majorities they would need to overrule the president, particularly in the House.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a staunch advocate of Keystone, said he will vote to override Obama but isn’t expecting the effort to succeed.

“I mean, we only had nine [Democratic] votes to pass [the bill], so what do you think? I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Manchin said Tuesday.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) will also support overriding Obama’s veto.

It’s possible Obama could make the final call on whether to approve the Canada-to-Texas pipeline before Republicans take another stab at legislation.

Secretary of State John Kerry is reviewing the final comments submitted by agencies on whether the pipeline is in the nation’s best interest. He is expected to send his recommendation on the project to the president soon.

But there is no deadline for Kerry, and a final decision from Obama could come in a matter of weeks, if not months. 

Despite vetoing the Keystone bill, the White House on Tuesday left the door open to Obama approving the project.

“It certainly is possible, the president will keep an open mind,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Supporters of the pipeline say it would create jobs, bolster the nation’s energy independence and create business for refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) scolded the president for vetoing the bill, arguing it is “political as usual here in Washington.”

“Voters spoke loud and clear last fall, saying they wanted Washington to work together,” said API CEO Jack Gerard. “Unfortunately, the veto today demonstrates some are not listening.”

Opponents, particularly in the environmental movement, warn the use of oil sands will worsen climate change and say Obama’s legacy will be tarnished if he approves the pipeline.

Prominent climate group credited environmentalists’ six-year push against Keystone for Obama’s stand against the bill.

“This veto is conclusive proof that activism works,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350. ”Now, it’s time for the president to show he’s serious about his climate legacy by moving on to step two: rejecting this pipeline once and for all.”

— Last updated at 7:57 p.m. 

Tags Bob Casey Boehner Claire McCaskill Heidi Heitkamp Joe Manchin John Boehner John Kerry Keystone XL Mitch McConnell
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