The U.S. Senate voted 62-36 in favor of the highly-contested Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday (1/29), with nine Democrats joining Republicans to show support for the $8 billion project that would transport 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada’s Tar Sands to the Gulf Coast. Following the vote, the Obama administration reiterated their stance that they will veto any bill that looks to expedite approval for Keystone XL, instead opting to wait for U.S. State Department to complete its investigation as to whether or not the pipeline is in national interests.
Keystone XL has become a highly-prized political football over the past six years. The vast majority of Democrats, not to mention millions of those with concerns for the environment, can agree along the lines that the massive project is bad for the environment—very bad. Not only that, but that it will exacerbate climate change, will not create a huge number of permanent jobs, will not have much of an overall economic benefit for the U.S and may actually do little in terms of creating energy independence from the Middle East.
In spite of all this, the Republicans are pushing hard to have permits approved, immediately, for the proposed 1,179-mile stretch of pipeline between Hardisty, Canada and Steele City, Nebraska. And that’s what this bill attempted to do. Obama has consistently maintained that he will veto any such bill, and that the final decision on permitting for Keystone XL lies with the executive branch. Because the bill did not achieve a two-thirds majority in favor, it cannot overcome any potential veto. So ostensibly, it’s in Obama’s hands—he must veto to stop immediate approval of Keystone XL.
The Republicans aren’t exactly being light in their verbiage on the matter of a veto. Following the vote, Speaker John Boehner told the media that “vetoing a clearly overwhelmingly popular bill would send the signal that [the President] doesn’t care about the American people’s priorities, it would be the equivalent of calling the American people stupid.” ‘Overwhelming’ is certainly an overstatement; both the senate vote and public polls have shown only a relatively slim majority in favor.
Ultimately, the decision on this bill rests in Obama’s hands. But as Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune stated following the senate’s decision, “[Republicans have] managed to waste weeks of the American people’s time floundering around on a bill that the White House has indicated will be vetoed and they’ve gone on the record against broadly popular policies like protecting our drinking water, supporting wind jobs, and forcing the Koch Brothers to disclose their political spending. I don’t think that’s the message Mitch McConnell and his colleagues wanted to send to the public — but, for Senate Republicans, it’s the cost of doing business with big polluting campaign donors.”