Senate fails to override Keystone pipeline veto

Senate Republicans fall short of two-thirds majority needed to rebuff president's veto after Democrats hold the line

The Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Barack Obama's veto of a bill to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to clear the required two-thirds threshold.

The 62-37 vote is expected to be one of many veto showdowns between Republicans and Obama in his final term. Already, the White House has issued more than a dozen veto threats on legislation.

The $8 billion Keystone XL project would transport oil extracted from Canada's tar sands to pipelines linked to Gulf Coast refineries.

Environmentalists have framed the pipeline as a test of Obama's commitment to address climate change, arguing that it would open up a path for tar sands oil to get to market. Republicans have pushed the pipeline as a job-creating infrastructure project that will supply the United States with oil from a friendly neighbor, rather than unstable regimes.

Obama has repeatedly resisted Congress' attempts to force his hand before a final State Department review on the pipeline is released. His veto of the bill, the third of his presidency, said that the bill circumvented longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross-border pipelines serve the national interest and cuts short consideration of its effects.

The environmental group 350.org celebrated the Senate's failure to overrule the president.

"Keystone XL has always been President Obama’s decision, today does nothing to change that, and we’re confident the President will do right by our climate and reject the pipeline once and for all," 350.org spokesman Karthik Ganapathy said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Proponents of the pipeline proposal have already been discussing other ways to force the pipeline's approval, either by attaching it to must-pass spending bills or to other, broader energy legislation.

"If we don't win the battle today, we will win the war because we will find another bill to attach this pipeline to," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the chief sponsor of the bill, said before the vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pleaded with Democrats for more support for a bill that he said advanced the president's own priorities.

"If you're interested in jobs and infrastructure and saving your party from an extreme mistake, then join us," he said. "Vote with us to override a partisan veto and help the president pursue priorities he's advocated in the past."

The State Department's analysis found that the oil would be harvested regardless of whether the pipeline is built, a conclusion that the EPA said needed to be re-examined given low oil prices. The same review said the pipeline would create thousands of jobs during construction, but ultimately it would require 35 permanent employees.

Al Jazeera and Associated Press

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