The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday advanced a bill that would approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, moving the legislation one step closer to the White House and a showdown with President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto it. As expected, the GOP-controlled House passed the bill that would bypass White House review of the Keystone XL project, by a 266-153 vote. Twenty-eight Democrats joined all but four of the House’s 242 Republicans in voting yes.
Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled Senate is set to start debating a companion bill today- meaning the legislation could hit Obama’s desk as soon as next week. The Senate already has the 60 votes necessary to advance the legislation. However, a White House spokesman said Friday that Obama was sticking to his veto threat first unveiled on Tuesday:
“The president believes the process should unfold at the State Department,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters.
The question then becomes whether the Senate has the 67 votes to override the president.
The Obama administration — specifically, the U.S. Department of State — 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. The project has become a lightning rod in the debate over U.S. energy and climate policy.
The House vote came hours after the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the state’s approval of the Keystone XL route through the state, removing a roadblock frequently cited by Obama as part of his hesitation to sign a bill approving the project.
“There has been broad bipartisan support for this project from day one,” House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a statement Friday. “With the Nebraska roadblock cleared, the president has no excuse left to delay this project. It’s time to build, once and for all.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the U.S. oil industry:
“Congress is leading on Keystone XL in a bipartisan fashion proving Washington can get things done, despite obstacles from the executive branch,” American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement Friday. “There are no excuses left. The president should join Congress in standing up for American jobs and energy security.”
Meanwhile, environmental groups were confident Obama would stick to his guns and veto the legislation.