The Republican-controlled Congress approved a bill Wednesday to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a confrontation with President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto the measure.
The House voted 270-152 to send the bill to the president, endorsing changes made by the Senate that stated climate change was real and not a hoax, and oil sands should no longer be exempt from a tax used to cleanup oil spills. Only one Republican voted against the measure.
The Senate had already passed this most recent version of the bill in late January by a margin of 62-36, just two votes over the threshold required to override a veto. Congressional Republicans had identified approval of the pipeline extension as a top legislative priority, following a midterm election that swept the party to power in the Senate and widened its majority in the House.
But neither chamber has enough support to overcome a presidential veto, and supporters were already strategizing on how to secure the pipeline's approval using other legislative means.
TransCanada Corp's pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels per day of mostly Canadian oil sands petroleum to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf. It has been pending for more than six years.
In that time, environmental groups have turned the pipeline extension plan into a symbol of their movement's larger struggle with the energy industry. Defeating Keystone XL would mean forcing the White House to buck fossil fuel producers on at least one major initiative, a key victory for a group of activists that has sometimes said it struggles to be heard on the federal level.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put out a statement ahead of Wednesday's House vote encouraging President Obama not to veto the pipeline extension.
“Let American workers build this infrastructure project, Mr. President," said McConnell. "Sign this jobs and infrastructure bill. Powerful special interests may be demanding that the President veto Keystone Jobs, but we hope he won’t."
Al Jazeera and wire services