House Passes Keystone Pipeline Bill, Setting Up Presidential Veto

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A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas.
A section of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma.Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A bill that approves the Keystone XL oil pipeline is headed to President Obama’s desk, but that still won’t resolve the issue. Two weeks after the Senate approved the bill, it cleared the House on Wednesday by a vote of 270–152, with 29 Democrats and all but one Republican supporting the measure. President Obama has already vowed to veto the proposal, and as the New York Times notes, the GOP’s main goal in passing the bill is to use the president’s expected rejection against Democrats. “Instead of listening to the people, the president is standing with a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists,” Speaker John Boehner said. “The president needs to listen to the American people and say ‘yes, let’s build the Keystone pipeline.’”

Once the bill is sent to the White House, the president will have ten days to respond. Congress does not have enough votes to override the veto, which will be only the third during the Obama administration.

The battle over Keystone has become extremely politicized, and while it once seemed that Obama might trade the pipeline for Republican support for one of his policy goals, that now seems unlikely. Regardless of the bill’s fate, the president still gets the final decision on whether to build the pipeline because it crosses the border with Canada. Obama put off his decision pending several reviews of the project, the last of which was completed last week.

Republican supporters said that if Obama vetoes the measure they may attach it to another bill, but Representative Frank Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy Committee, said they should move on from debating Keystone. “This Congress has much work to do on energy,” he said.