The Republican-led Congress gave final passage on Wednesday to a bill to approve the long-pending Keystone XL pipeline, a measure that next goes to President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto it. The bill passed by 270-152 in the House of Representatives, with only one Republican voting against it and 29 Democrats for it. The legislation passed in the Senate in late January.
Obama, a Democrat, opposes the bill because it would pluck the approval process from his administration. He wants the State Department to finish its assessment of the pipeline and make his own decision on it afterward. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who made passing the bill a top priority after Republicans gained control of the chamber in November’s elections, has framed the measure as a “jobs bill.”
Even if Obama rejects the bill, “the new Congress won’t stop pursuing good ideas,” McConnell said. Keystone supporters in the Senate are at least four votes shy of the two-thirds vote needed to override an Obama veto. They have vowed to attach language approving the pipeline in a spending bill or other legislation later in the year that the president would find difficult to reject.
TransCanada Corp’s pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil sands petroleum to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf. It has been pending for more than six years. Supporters say it would create thousands of construction jobs. Opponents say the pipeline would increase carbon pollution and could spill into an aquifer that provides much of the freshwater in the Great Plains agricultural states.
Obama has said Keystone should not be approved if it significantly raises emissions linked to global warming, and he has downplayed the number of jobs it would create. The State Department is expected soon to issue its recommendation to Obama after it received comments earlier this month from several federal agencies on whether Keystone is in the country’s interest.