On Friday, an overwhelming majority of House members passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) which approved construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL Pipeline. By 252 to 161, the House opted to send the measure to the U.S. Senate, where it will face a vote from the upper chamber next week which could, for the first time, force the president to determine whether to approve or veto the oil transit route.
31 Democratic representatives voted with every Republican member of Congress save Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who voted present, to approve construction of the pipeline. It is an indication that the 114th Congress will feature a far rowdier Democratic caucus.
Only seven of the 31 Democrats are not going to be members of the next Congress. 24 House Democrats who voted in favor of the measure will be coming back for the new Congress on January 6.
Among the Democrats who voted in favor of building the pipeline is newly elected Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), brother of New Jersey Democratic Party leader George Norcross, who filled a seat vacated by the resigning Rob Andrews just this week. The congressman representing the city of Camden cast one of his first votes on Friday in favor of constructing the pipeline in spite of the White House’s opposition.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the House bill even if it is approved by the Senate next week, a move which could have significant implications for the upcoming December 6 runoff election in Louisiana which will determine if Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) keeps her seat for a fourth term.
The president has placed a variety of obstacles in the way of the construction of Keystone:
His State Department — which must approve the pipeline, since it crosses international borders — is six years into a review of the project. Obama told reporters Friday in Myanmar that his “position hasn’t changed.”
He said the pipeline is still facing a challenge from Nebraska landowners and said he doesn’t think “we should circuit that process.”
“My government believes that we should judge this pipeline based on whether or not it accelerates climate change or whether it helps the American people with their energy costs or their gas prices,” he said.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to hold a vote on the House bill next Tuesday, but it is not believed that it will receive the 60 votes required for passage. “If Landrieu and Hoeven can’t find a 60th supporter, Republicans plan to try to pass the bill again in January when they control both chambers of Congress,” The Washington Examiner reported.
Whatever happens in the upper chamber, Landrieu is unlikely to be the ultimate beneficiary.