In a series of rapid developments that unfolded just hours after
Congress returned from a seven-week recess, there were indications
the measure could pass and be sent to Obama sometime next week.
Republicans, victorious in the Nov. 4 congressional elections in
which they campaigned heavily on the need for Keystone, have been
pushing for approval of the project amid objections from some
"It is time for America to become energy independent and that is
impossible without the Keystone pipeline and other pipelines like
it," Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana told reporters.
Landrieu and Senator John Hoeven, a Republican of North Dakota,
introduced the bill on May 1.
Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee, is fighting for her political life as she faces a runoff
race early next month that will determine whether she can serve
another six-year Senate term beginning in January.
Landrieu acknowledged to reporters that she had no commitment from
Obama that he would sign a Keystone bill if Congress sends one to
Obama is currently in Asia, and a spokesman traveling with him said
the White House took a dim view of the proposal.
"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
"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."
Republican Representative Bill Cassidy is challenging Landrieu for
her Senate seat.
Their campaigns appeared to move from Louisiana to Washington on
Wednesday as Landrieu touted her long work in favor of TransCanada
Corp's <TRP.TO> $8 billion Keystone project.
Cassidy immediately responded by introducing a nearly identical bill
in the House. Other versions already have passed the
The Obama administration has been weighing for six years whether to
approve the pipeline that would run from Canada south to the U.S.
Gulf of Mexico. The project also faces a court challenge in Nebraska
over the pipeline's route.
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Environmentalists, an important Democratic constituency, have argued
against encouraging Canada's extraction of a crude oil that is seen
as particularly polluting and will worsen global climate change
The moves in Congress also came as the United States and
China, two of the biggest users of polluting fossil fuels such as
coal and oil, announced new long-term goals for limiting emissions
linked to climate change.
A House vote on Keystone was set for as early as Thursday and if the
Senate next week also approves the bill, possibly on Tuesday,
Congress would be aiming to take the decision on the pipeline out of
But it still would be up to Obama whether to sign the measure into
law, which would please labor unions that covet the potential
pipeline construction projects, or veto it and challenge Congress to
The pipeline project needs presidential approval because it crosses
an international border.
Wednesday's developments kicked off a furious lobbying campaign by
environmentalists, who want to kill the legislative effort and leave
the pipeline decision in Obama's hands.
"This tar sands oil pipeline was a bad idea before the election and
it remains a bad idea," said Danielle Droitsch of the Natural
Resources Defense Council.
"The pipeline would mean that more of the world’s dirtiest oil flows
through the United States, threatening water supplies. And burning
the additional tar sands oil would needlessly worsen climate
change," Droitsch said.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Valerie Volcovici, Amanda
Becker and Matt Spetalnick, Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by
Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker)
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