House Passes Keystone Bill, Senate to Decide on Their Version

Talking Points

us capitolThe US House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday, November 14, approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, defying President Barack Obama, who challenged supporters’ arguments that the pipeline will boost the economy.

Congress Support

The Republican-led House passed the legislation by 252 votes to 161, with 31 Democrats supporting it. A similar measure in the Senate, however, struggled to get enough support to pass the bill. The Democrat-led Senate will vote on the bill on November 18.

Obama could still veto the bill if it passes the Senate.

With the bill hurdling the House approval, it circumvents the need for approval of TransCanada Corp’s $8 billion project by the Obama Administration, which has been stagnating for more than six years amid legal and political disputes.

Support and Approval

The legislation was the ninth time the House has passed a Keystone bill, and backers are confident the Senate would pass its version this time around. An aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Senate backers of the bill have 59 of 60 votes needed to pass it. The 60 votes would overcome a filibuster, a blocking procedure.

Approval for the building of the pipeline has rested with the White House because it crosses an international border—into Canada. The project would help transport oil from Canada’s oil sands to the US Gulf coast energy hub.

The project has been pending amid debate between supporters of the pipeline saying it would create thousands of job opportunities, and environmentalists saying it would lead to increased carbon emissions linked to climate change.

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White House has the Final Say

If the measure does pass the House and the Senate, the final hurdle would still be the White House. Obama would have to decide whether to make rare use of his veto power. The president has yet to exercise his veto power, but he has threatened to use this in the past.

No matter how the voting in Congress comes out, the pipeline still needs Obama’s seal of approval. If lawmakers try to force a bill on the issue, as they are doing now, it will still need the president’s signature to pass.

‘No Impact of US Gas Prices’

On Friday, the US president, who was in Myanmar, made his case against the project. During a joint news conference with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama attacked the logic used by the pipeline’s proponents.

He said because the project does not mean a lot to Americans on economic grounds, he will judge the plan based on its environmental merits.

“I have to constantly push back against this idea that, somehow, the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices,” Obama said during the joint press conference.

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”