As predicted, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting the stage for a U.S. Senate showdown next week and a potential presidential veto after that.
The vote played out largely along party lines in the House, with 262 members voting in favor of the legislation and 161 voting against. Thirty-one Democrats voted for the bill, which was introduced by Representative Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana).
The Senate is scheduled to vote on its Keystone companion bill on Tuesday. While Republicans were confident they had sufficient support going into Friday's House vote, they are far less secure in the Senate.
Though all 45 Republicans are expected to vote "aye" and at least 13 Democrats have signaled they will support the bill, Newsweek reported Friday that the Senate "was still one vote shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, or blocking procedure, and pass a companion bill," according to an aide to a Keystone supporter in that chamber.
Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who is co-sponsoring the Senate bill in the hopes it will help her win a run-off election against Cassidy in Louisiana next month, and other supporters of the pipeline "are racing to line up 60 votes in favor of the project," Fuel Fix reported.
But environmentalists are calling on Landreiu's Democratic colleagues to stand with President Barack Obama—who wants a State Department review to run its course and has said he would reject the pipeline if it accelerated climate change—and stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
"Sen. Mary Landrieu is a lost cause," admitted Jamie Henn of 350.org. "She’s going to keep her head stuck in the Bayou just as long as the oil industry keeps writing the checks. But other politicians don’t have to follow suit. They’ve got the support they need to stand up to Big Oil and do the right thing. Voting no on Keystone XL would be a good start."
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"This Congress has taken vote after vote to appease corporate polluters by attacking clean air, clean water, and action to tackle the climate crisis. This latest push for the dirty Keystone XL pipeline is no different," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "The bottom line is the decision whether or not to approve the pipeline rests solely with President Obama, who has repeatedly said he will reject it if it contributes significantly to climate pollution. There is no question that it will, so we remain confident that he will reject this pipeline and these attacks on long-standing executive powers."
The Hill reported Friday:
If the Keystone bill does pass both chambers, the ball will be in Obama’s court.
Signing the bill would have political upside, as polling shows there is broad public support for the pipeline, with 59 percent of Americans favoring its construction, according to Pew Research.
But signing Keystone legislation would be a major reversal, as Obama has long insisted that the inter-agency review of the project must be allowed to run its course.
On Thursday press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration still has a 'dim view' of bills forcing action on Keystone, and last week, Obama reiterated he wants to let the 'independent process' at the State Department 'play out.'
Environmentalists interpret those statements as signaling a veto if Congress sends a bill to the president’s desk.
"Let's get one thing straight: this vote is nothing more than an empty act of political theater, because Keystone XL is President Obama's decision," declared May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. "We're confident that when everything's said and done, the President will recognize that a new pipeline spewing emissions and polluting our land is the last thing Americans need—and we'll keep pushing for rejection. But in the meantime, politicians in Congress should find better things to do than hold more pointless votes that fail to address any of the real issues facing our country."