Legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared an initial Senate hurdle Monday, a victory for newly empowered Republicans angling for a quick veto showdown with President Barack Obama.
The bipartisan 63-32 vote was 3 more than the 60 required, and well above the level the highly controversial measure ever gained in recent years when Democrats controlled the Senate….
But with more than enough votes at their command, Republican and Democratic supporters said they hoped the legislation could win final approval and be sent to the White House by the end of next week.
“President Obama has every reason to sign the jobs and infrastructure bill that we will pass,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He noted that the Nebraska Supreme Court had recently rejected a legal challenge brought by opponents, an obstacle the White House had cited.
While this vote was important, backers of the pipeline will need to hold the line when it times to voting to close debate. That’s when the arm-twisting by the White House will get real. But with 60 cosponsors, there may not be much the White House can do to avoid having to issue a veto.
National Journal reports there are not currently enough votes to override a veto, but the open amendment process might help in that regard:
Senators voted 63-32 Monday to move to debate on the bipartisan bill from North Dakota Republican John Hoeven and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin that would force approval of the Alberta-to-Gulf Coast oil-sands pipeline, with nine Democrats and one independent siding with all Republicans. The House passed the bill last week, but the White House has promised to veto it.
The vote clears the way for the much-promised open-amendment process, expected to begin in earnest next week when lawmakers return after the GOP congressional retreat….
Sponsors have said they think the open amendment process would bring enough votes to overcome a presidential veto. Currently there are 60 cosponsors on the bill and another three Democrats have backed the pipeline in the past, short of the 67 needed to overturn the veto. In Monday’s vote, Democrats Michael Bennet, Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester, Tom Udall, Mark Warner and Manchin all voted to proceed to the bill. Independent Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, also voted for to move to the bill.
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