House Republicans kept a key plank of their energy policy alive on April 18, defying a White House veto threat and passing legislation mandating the building of a controversial oil pipeline.
The text calling for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the US Gulf Coast was inserted into a bill extending transportation funding, which passed 293-127 in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. About 70 Democrats voted for the measure in the House but it is considered unlikely that the bill -- in its current form with the Keystone XL provision -- would pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Congress had already approved a 90-day funding extension last month, after the House refused to pass the Senate's two-year, $109 billion transportation bill that had bipartisan support.
The new House extension allows the party caucuses to gather together to hash out a compromise.
While House Speaker John Boehner had worked in vain to get the House to pass a massive, five-year transportation bill, he was hailing the latest extension as a victory.
"The House is on record again in support of the Keystone XL energy pipeline -- a project President Obama blocked, personally lobbied against, then tried to take credit for, and now says he'll veto," Boehner said.
Republicans have savaged Obama for suspending the project, under pressure from environmental groups, in January when he said the pipeline's planned route was through environmentally sensitive areas.
Boehner said the $7 billion project -- part of an "all of the above" energy strategy that exploits traditional sources like oil and natural gas as well as newer technologies like wind, solar and biofuels -- would "create tens of thousands of new American jobs."
"If he continues to stand in the way, the Canadian government will bypass the United States and ship their energy -- and the jobs that come with it -- to countries like China," Boehner added.
Environmentalists fear an accident along the 1,700-mile pipeline would spell disaster for aquifers in central Great Plains states. They also oppose the project because exploiting the oil sands requires energy that generate a large volume of greenhouse gases. CNN, citing a spokesman for Nebraska's environmental authority, reported that the company behind the controversial pipeline, TransCanada, has submitted a proposal for a new route that bypasses an environmentally sensitive aquifer.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012