WASHINGTON >> House Republicans are on track to easily pass legislation to authorize the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, moving the GOP-led Congress closer to a clash with President Barack Obama.
Friday’s vote will be the 10th time since July 2011 that the House has voted on legislation advancing the pipeline, and the outcome is expected to be no different: It will pass.
But the effort is still likely to hit a dead end, despite the fact the Senate on Thursday cleared an identical bill out of a committee. The Senate bill has the backing of 60 members, enough to pass the full chamber, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to start debate immediately. Democrats blocked his effort, setting up a test vote early next week.
The White House has said Obama will veto the bill if it passes the Republican-controlled Congress because it “prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests.”
Republicans have countered that Obama is derailing a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s energy infrastructure that the majority of Americans want. The $5.4 billion project, which would move tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, was first proposed in 2008.
“We have an opportunity to build on our reputation as an energy superpower that respects its neighbors, trades with its allies and builds necessary infrastructure such as the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the Senate energy committee, which cleared the bill 13-9 with no amendments Thursday.
“I believe Congress is ready to pursue that opportunity in a bipartisan manner,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the administration continues to stand in the way, even threatening to veto this important legislation.”
McConnell on Thursday called on the White House to reconsider its veto threat. That appears unlikely given that a lawsuit still pending in Nebraska could change its route, prompting additional review.
In a preview of the debate to come, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, offered an amendment to the bill Thursday that says Congress believes global warming is real and that it’s imperative to move away from fossil fuels. The energy committee voted to table the amendment for now, but it is expected to be reintroduced on the floor.