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House sends bill approving oil pipeline to Senate

November 14, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House passed legislation Friday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting the stage for a Senate showdown that mixes energy politics with a fight over Louisiana’s Senate seat.

The vote was 252-161 in favor of the bill.

The legislation got new life after Senate Democrats suddenly abandoned efforts to block the measure in hopes of winning the last unresolved Senate race from the midterm elections.

Senate passage of the bill as early as next Tuesday would force President Barack Obama to either sign it into law or veto the measure just weeks after devastating Democratic losses in the Nov. 4 elections. Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline, which environmentalists maintain would have a negative impact and contribute to climate change.

The Obama administration’s delays have caused friction between the U.S. and Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production.

Republicans and several moderate Democrats argue that construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs.

The bill marks the ninth attempt by the House to approve the pipeline. Prior votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate have failed to get enough votes, but supporters said Thursday they were close to reaching that threshold.

The Republicans wrested control of the Senate from the Democrats in the midterm elections, but the new Congress doesn’t take office until January.

Both the Republicans and Senate Democrats hope the votes will give an edge to their party’s candidate in the Louisiana Senate race, where Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy are headed for Dec. 6 runoff and both touting their energy credentials in an oil and gas-producing state.

The Republicans are assured of 53 of the 100 Senate seats when the new Congress takes office in January. Louisiana would make it 54.

The White House stopped short of directly threatening a veto of the Keystone legislation. But spokesman Josh Earnest, traveling in Asia with Obama, said the president takes a “dim view” of legislative efforts to force action on the project.

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