Yesterday, the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress began its formal push to pass legislation approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a showdown with President Barack Obama, who vowed to veto the bill.
GOP leaders in the House said that the full chamber will vote on the legislation on Friday. While White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that Obama would veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. Earnest reaffirmed the White House’s commitment to the existing process, in which the U.S. Department of State must review and issue a cross-border permit for the project, and noted that it threatened to veto the bill last year when it made its way through Congress before stalling. Earnest wouldn’t say whether Obama would consider approving the Keystone project as part of a broader legislative compromise with Congress, but didn’t display much enthusiasm over the alternative.
The Obama administration is taking its time in deciding whether to issue a presidential, cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if completed, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives and the Senate reintroduced bills that would bypass White House approval and greenlight the project, which has become a lightning rod in the debate over U.S. energy and climate policy.
The House has previously passed a Keystone bill, and with a handful of Senate Democrats expressing support for the project, the Senate already has the 60 votes necessary to advance the legislation and send it to Obama’s desk.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources had scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on its bill, but it was scuttled on Tuesday after an unnamed Democratic senator objected to the hearing, according to Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. The committee planned to mark up the legislation with any amendments on Thursday, but that’s up in the air as well, Dillon said.
The oil industry applauded the renewed legislative push on Tuesday. American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement. “Forty-two thousand good paying American jobs are at stake and our nation needs to build critical energy infrastructure now for the energy demands of the future.”
Environmental groups blasted the effort to place the Keystone project at the head of the 2015 legislative line and applauded Obama for threatening a veto. “The president made the right call,” Danielle Droitsch of the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a statement on Tuesday. “What’s needed now is for him to kill the dirty tar sands pipeline outright.
With the veto threat now on the table, the question becomes whether the Senate has the 67 votes to override the president.