As Senate Race Looms, House to Vote on Keystone Pipeline Friday

Daniel Doherty
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Posted: Nov 13, 2014 1:45 PM
As Senate Race Looms, House to Vote on Keystone Pipeline Friday

Remember when Mitt Romney was running for president and pledged (somewhat jokingly) to erect the Keystone XL Pipeline “[even] if I have to do it myself?” Well, almost three years later, he may soon get his wish.

A confluence of factors, such as the results of the midterm elections, changing leadership roles, and a closely-watched Senate contest in Louisiana, have all come together to put Keystone back on the map. Since the president took office, supporters of the project have argued, quite unsuccessfully, that building the pipeline would reduce our reliance on foreign oil and create jobs. Plus, they argue, it is wildly popular and eliciting bipartisan support. But for years, the administration hasn’t budged or indicated they’d support such a proposal. Their calculus, however, may be changing:

The House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Friday, a congressional aide said on Thursday as lawmakers prepared to debate the controversial project.

The legislation, which is expected to pass the Republican-led chamber, would approve the pipeline that would run from Canada south to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The Senate could take up the bill next week, possibly on Tuesday, setting up a potential showdown with the White House.

Unsurprisingly, Sen. Landrieu is also trying to introduce a bill of her own to get the pipeline approved. Impeccable timing, Senator:

It's not clear whether Republicans will support Landrieu's bid for a vote while Democrats still control the chamber. But she was lobbying for them to do so on the Senate floor Wednesday.

It doesn't matter that for six long years she sat on her hands and did absolutely nothing. Passing the bill now, of course, allows her to go back home and tell her constituents she’s not an Obama rubber stamp after all. She's getting stuff done!

Here's the video of her making the case for the legislation on the Senate floor on Wednesday:

Republicans are calling this ploy desperate, transparently political, and a “Hail Mary.” But even if her opponent's bill does make it all the way to the president’s desk, would he actually sign it into law? Don't hold your breath:

"The administration has taken a dim view of these kinds of legislative proposals in the past," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar. "It’s fair to say that our dim view of these kinds of proposals has not changed.

"Evaluating those earlier proposals, we have indicated that the president’s senior advisers at the White House have recommended that he veto legislation like that," Earnest added. "And that has continued to be our position."

Perhaps he shouldn't listen to his "senior advisers." As the Washington Post explains, if he hangs Sen. Landrieu—and all the other Keystone Pipeline supporters—out to dry, you-know-what could hit the fan:

Obama has only vetoed two pieces of legislation so far in his presidency. Such is the benefit of controlling one of [the] chambers of Congress (the Senate) for all six years.

Republicans hope having control of both chambers will mean, rather than the Senate effectively vetoing bills from the GOP-controlled House by not voting on them, they will be able to put the decision in Obama's hands, at which point public pressure on something like Keystone could be brought to bear. And it looks like Obama will quickly be forced into making one of his toughest veto decisions -- at least when it comes to the court of public opinion.

We'll continue to follow this story as it develops. Stay tuned.