Keystone Pipeline Passes One US Legislative Hurdle

House members walk down the steps outside the US Capitol after voting on the Keystone XL Pipeline earlier today. The Republican-led House voted to approve legislation to authorize construction of the controversial pipeline. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Keystone Pipeline Passes One US Legislative Hurdle

The House approves construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada, but the measure could still find itself blocked in the Senate.

WASHINGTON -- The US House of Representatives on Friday approved construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada, but the measure could still find itself blocked in the Senate.

The project, which would bring oil from tar sands in Alberta province to US refineries, passed the Republican-controlled House by 252 votes to 161, with 31 Democrats supporting the measure.

Keystone's progress is closely monitored in Canada, where government officials and builder TransCanada have said the project would provide an economic boon.

It is the ninth time the House has passed pro-Keystone legislation, but the pipeline faces resistance in the Senate, where Democrats will retain a majority until the new Congress in January.

And President Barack Obama strongly signaled Friday that he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

"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," Obama said in Myanmar.

"If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy."

Ongoing Legal Challenge

Obama said he wanted the ongoing evaluation process to run its course, and noted that a court case about the pipeline's route was ongoing in Nebraska.

"I don't think we should short-circuit that process," Obama said.

After the vote, top Republicans called on the Senate and Obama to end their opposition.

"Hopefully, this ninth vote is the charm and the Senate and president will finally agree that after six years it's time to say yes to energy and yes to jobs," House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton said.

When the previous House measures passed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow votes, angering Republicans and some Democrats who back the $5.3 billion plan.

But after last week's midterm election drubbing suffered by Democrats, Reid allowed a Keystone vote in his chamber as early as next Tuesday.

The GOP claims that once the new Congress convenes in January, it will have sufficient Keystone support to reach a 60-vote Senate threshold and overcome blocking tactics.

It remains unclear whether enough Democrats will side with the current Senate's 45 Republicans to ram the measure through next week.

By Michael Mathes

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014

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