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Congress aims to bypass Obama on Keystone pipeline
Proponents say 42,000 jobs on the line
Question of the Day
The movement to bypass President Obama and approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline through congressional action has more momentum than ever, with a key Senate committee set to vote later this week on a bill to greenlight the massive Canada-to-Texas project.
As bipartisan backing for the pipeline grows — and as other proponents such as the oil-and-gas industry and organized labor raise their voices even louder in support — the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill to approve Keystone, which has languished in limbo for more than five years and suffered from seemingly endless delays by the Obama administration.
With the support of all Republicans and at least two Democrats on the committee, the measure almost surely will pass.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has given no indication he's willing to bring the Keystone bill to the floor of the full Senate, even though a significant number of Democrats strongly favor the project.
Republicans expect that, even after Wednesday's vote, Mr. Reid won't budge.
"Harry Reid continues to block it on the floor," Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Monday. "Harry Reid could have taken this to the Senate floor weeks ago. He has chosen not to."
With Mr. Reid expected to stand in the way, a Senate Republican aide said Monday that the responsibility for getting the measure to the floor rests with Energy Committee chair Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat and one of the project's strongest supporters.
The aide said the future of the bill — which easily would pass the GOP-controlled House — depends on Mrs. Landrieu and whether she has the political "clout" to force Mr. Reid to bring it up for a vote.
Neither Mrs. Landrieu's office nor Mr. Reid's office responded to requests for comment from The Washington Times.
The pipeline, which would transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil each day south from Alberta through the U.S. heartland en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, currently requires presidential approval because it crosses an international boundary.
The Senate legislation would remove the presidential approval provision, though the bill still could be vetoed by Mr. Obama after it cleared both chambers of Congress.
In addition to movement on Capitol Hill, pressure on the White House to approve Keystone is mounting from other quarters.
On Monday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO hosted a joint conference call and urged the president to approve Keystone immediately.
They also expressed support for this week's Senate vote and said Mr. Reid should listen to the will of the majority in his chamber and bring it up for a vote.
"The administration has demonstrated it lacks the political leadership to take the steps necessary to make U.S. energy security a reality. We cannot stand by while the administration waits and waits until it is politically convenient to do the right thing," API President and CEO Jack Gerard told reporters. "Over 42,000 Americans are ready for these jobs today, and they shouldn't have to wait for the dust to settle on the next election before they have a chance to take home a paycheck."
The 42,000 jobs figure comes from the administration's own research. A comprehensive State Department analysis of the project found that not only will it create tens of thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the economy, it also will not significantly increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — the president's chief prerequisite for approving the project.
Still, the administration continues to delay. The State Department recently put off issuing a "national interest determination" of the pipeline, which would have been the final step before a decision by Mr. Obama.
The administration is putting off any further work on Keystone until after a Nebraska court decides whether the pipeline's route through the Cornhusker State is valid. A decision by the state court isn't expected until the fall.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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