WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives passed a measure Friday that would force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The House approved the Keystone measure by a vote of 252 to 161. Nearly all Republicans voted for the bill, along with 31 Democrats. One Republican, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, voted "present."
This marks the ninth time that the House has voted for a measure to force approval of the 1,660-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries in Texas.
“Hopefully, this ninth vote is the charm, and the Senate and President will finally agree that after six years, it’s time to say yes to energy and yes to jobs," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement after the vote.
The vote precedes action on a parallel measure in the Senate that will go up for a vote on Tuesday, Nov. 18. The Senate bill, which is coauthored by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), passed out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June.
Landrieu has been busy gathering support for her measure. As of Friday, she appeared to have 59 senators lined up to support it -- which is still one vote shy of the number needed for passage.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is the lead sponsor of the House bill. Cassidy and Landrieu are currently locked in a tight runoff election for Landrieu's Senate seat.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate announced Wednesday evening that they had reached a deal to hold a vote on the Keystone measure. They agreed to hold six hours of debate ahead of a vote next Tuesday, and to have no amendments, motions or points of order taken on the bill prior to the vote on passage. That means the vote will be on Keystone alone, not any extraneous measures, and it will need 60 votes to pass.
Previous efforts to pass a Keystone bill have gotten caught up in a number of legislative battles. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is personally against the pipeline, has previously opposed holding a vote on Keystone, though he did offer in June to hold a vote if Senate Republicans approved a stalled energy efficiency bill.
The White House indicated Thursday that President Barack Obama would likely veto the bill forcing Keystone approval if it passes the Senate. "The administration, as you know, has taken a dim view of these kinds of legislative proposals in the past," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
The environmental group 350.org, which has organized a number of protests to encourage Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, called the House vote an act of "political theater" in a statement Friday. "We're confident that when everything's said and done, the President will recognize that a new pipeline spewing emissions and polluting our land is the last thing Americans need -- and we'll keep pushing for rejection," said the group's executive director, May Boeve.
Obama's State Department has delayed a final decision on Keystone until after a court decision is issued in Nebraska in a case challenging the legality of the proposed route the pipeline would take through the state.
At a press conference in Myanmar on Friday, Obama reaffirmed his argument that the Keystone XL decision should be made only after the State Department has completed its review. "I’ve been clear in the past," said Obama, according to The Hill. "My position hasn’t changed, that this is a process that is supposed to be followed."
Obama said that part of that process will include determining “whether or not [the pipeline] accelerates climate change," and also seemed to express frustration about having to "constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.