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Senate Passes Keystone XL Bill So Obama Can Veto It

After weeks of wangling, the Republican-led Senate finally passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline after debating dozens of amendments and overcoming stiff resistance from Democrats.

But while Republicans celebrate their legislative victory, President Obama is likely readying his pen to veto the bill, and Republicans won’t likely have enough votes to override the president’s decision.

The bill was allowed to advance Thursday after senators voted to end debate on the legislation which forced a vote on a slew of amendments. The Keystone bill passed out of the Senate in a 62 to 36 vote.

“The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. But the Keystone jobs debate has been important for the Senate and for our country,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “The Keystone infrastructure project has been studied endlessly, from almost every possible angle, and the same general conclusion keeps becoming clear: Build it.”

Keystone XL has become a battleground between pro-oil and anti-fossil fuels lawmakers for the past few years. TransCanada, the company looking to build the pipeline, first applied for a presidential permit in 2008, and has been waiting ever since then to get one.

The pipeline would bring oil sands from Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists say it would cause oil spills and exacerbate global warming. Pipeline supporters say it would increase energy security and create jobs.

“Here’s another foregone conclusion: The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport Canadian tar sands oil – the dirtiest fuel on the planet – through America’s heartland to be refined and then shipped abroad,” said Danielle Droitsch, the Canadian director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It would threaten our waters, our lands and worsen carbon pollution. It’s not in our national interest.”

After years of waiting, Republicans decided to make passing Keystone XL their first legislative priority. The House quickly passed a Keystone approval bill in early January — the 10th vote they’ve had on the pipeline. But the Senate’s pipeline bill has been held up by Democratic lawmakers offering up dozens of amendments.

Amendments offered by Democrats ranged from regulating hydraulic fracturing to declaring that global warming was real and not a hoax. Republicans also offered amendments to Keystone, including one that would not allow EPA agents to carry firearms on the job.

Even though the Keystone bill passed the Senate, the White House has threatened to veto the project. Obama has criticized claims about Keystone XL’s economic impacts, saying the job creation numbers are inflated.

The White House has said they would not make their decision until the State Department issues its determination of whether or not Keystone XL is in the national interest. The Department recently told other government agencies they have until early February to submit their comments on the pipeline.

But even with a positive finding by the State Department, Obama has said his support for the project will be based on its carbon dioxide emissions, not its economic benefits. If he is convinced the project will contribute to global warming, he will likely veto it.

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