WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives passed legislation Friday, voting 252-161 to approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, which would take that decision away from the Obama administration.
The debate over Keystone has become a central issue in the Louisiana Senate runoff election, which is scheduled for Dec. 6.
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy is running against Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The House has already passed similar legislation, but Republicans hope this latest vote will give Cassidy a boost in next month’s election.
Landrieu has also been pushing for approval of the pipeline, and the Senate is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday. The bill will need 60 votes to pass and it’s expected to be a close vote.
The long-stalled measure got a jump-start when Landrieu — the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairwoman facing an uphill re-election battle — saw it as one last chance to demonstrate her clout and began pushing for an immediate vote.
Senate Democrats who had previously ignored the bill are now moving toward giving it a vote in the lame duck session, knowing that Republicans are likely to force the issue after their newly elected majority is sworn into office in January.
Republicans sought to mute Landrieu’s chances of getting a political boost in her oil-rich state by promising Cassidy a spot on the energy panel and also having him sponsor the House’s legislation to authorize the pipeline.
The legislation would take the approval of the pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, out of the hands of President Barack Obama’s administration.
The State Department — which must approve the pipeline, since it crosses international borders — is six years into a review of the project. Obama told reporters Friday in Myanmar that his “position hasn’t changed.”
He said the pipeline is still facing a challenge from Nebraska landowners and said he doesn’t think “we should circuit that process.”
“My government believes that we should judge this pipeline based on whether or not it accelerates climate change or whether it helps the American people with their energy costs or their gas prices,” he said.
Landrieu, meanwhile, has insisted the Senate has at least 60 votes to approve the pipeline — and is taking credit for the legislation’s sudden movement.
“I am so pleased to have been one of the spark plugs to help to get us moving — not in the next Congress, but in the lame duck session of this Congress,” she said on the Senate floor Thursday.