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Keystone XL Vetoed, Now What?

President Obama took just a few hours to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill, rejecting Congress’ attempt to force approval, and setting the stage for an attempt next week on an override vote that will most likely fail. Even before Obama leaned on his veto pen, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to hold a vote no later than March 3.

That leaves the pipeline supporters with a long weekend to find four votes in the Senate and about 20 Democratic votes in the House to enact the bill.

Obama’s veto was based on his refusal to accept Congress’s attempt to “circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.” This act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including our security, safety, and environment – it has earned my veto,” he said.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) issued a statement saying, “Disappointing but not surprising for the president to give the thumbs down to American workers, consumers, and our Canadian friends. Keystone XL is an economic win-win that would create tens of thousands of shovel-ready jobs and strengthen our energy partnership with our North American neighbor, helping insulate us against future turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere that could cause price hikes. We should not be closing off our borders to affordable energy, and Congress will work to fix this terribly broken process.”

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said he is working to get more Democrats on board with voting to override President Obama’s veto of legislation to approve Keystone XL. “We are still at 63, but we are working to see if there are others we can get and see if there is something we can do to encourage them.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mark Warner (VA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bob Casey (PA), and Joe Donnelly (IN) all plan to vote to override the veto, according to Senate aides. But Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) have yet to say which way they will vote.

Another round is possible.  “I think it’s more likely we are going to look to something like the highway bill and attaching it there. That’s an infrastructure bill, this is about infrastructure,” Hoeven said. “We have strong support in the House. Obviously we have everybody on our side.”

When asked about John Podesta’s comment that there is “no must-pass bill” that could convince the president to go against his policies, Hoeven said the highway bill would change his mind.”  A six-year highway bill is something I believe we can do this year and we all want to do on both sides of the aisle. I believe the president would sign it.”

Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL bill keeps the $8 billion project in the hands of the Administration, but even if the eventual answer there is no, supporters are promising the pipeline will survive.  Supporters say a small pool of Democrats could be persuaded to support the pipeline if Obama rejects the project soon. This was the president’s third veto of his term.