The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives passed on Friday a bill that would strip President Barack Obama of the authority to decide whether to authorize the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border.
The action came hours after the Nebraska Supreme Court removed one of the causes of delay in the administration’s review of the project. That court reversed a state trial court ruling that the statute under which former GOP Gov. Dave Heineman approved the pipeline route violated the Nebraska constitution.
The White House said again Thursday that President Obama would not decide whether or not to grant a permit allowing the pipeline to proceed until the litigation in Nebraska was resolved.
A committee of the U.S. Senate acted Thursday to approve a bill to expedite the pipeline. That chamber’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee, where Republicans have a 12-10 advantage, gave S.1 a green light with the help of one Democrat – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
The vote on the House bill, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline Act, was 266-153. Every Republican except Justin Amash of Michigan voted “aye.” They were joined by 28 Democrats. Amash voted “present.”
Despite the lopsided sentiment in the chamber in favor of sidelining President Obama and forcing approval of the pipeline, the number of “aye” votes is not enough to override an expected veto of H.R. 3.
Over in the Senate, backers of similar legislation – S.1 – appear to have the 60 votes needed to cut off any attempt to filibuster the bill and approve it. It is not likely that 67 senators would vote to override a veto.
According to a report in The Hill newspaper, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has scheduled a cloture vote on the Senate bill for Monday, Jan. 12.
The House and Senate bills have identical text, which means that the proposed legislation would proceed immediately to President Obama’s desk if the Senate rejects a filibuster of S.1 and then approves it.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruling did not involve any of the seven justices finding that the law allowing approval of the pipeline route through the state was constitutional. Four justices said the statute violated the state constitution and three opined that the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. Under Nebraska law five justices must agree that a state law violates the state constitution in order to hold the statute invalid.