Two Senate Republicans told Newsmax on Thursday that Congress was going to bring the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline to the American people whether President Barack Obama approves it or not.
"If he vetoes it, we'll have other options that we'll work on," said North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, who co-sponsored the bill that the Senate approved on a 62-36 vote. Nine Democrats joined all 53 Republicans to support the project.
"It's disappointing that he's coming out and issuing these veto threats, right after the American people so clearly voted and sent a message saying that they wanted him to start working with Congress instead of going it alone," Hoeven said.
"That's what it's about when working for the American people."
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, whose trouncing of longtime Democrat Mary Landrieu in a December runoff election that was essentially a referendum on the pipeline, said that "we're doing what's right by the American people. This is so right in so many ways.
"He doesn’t tell why he doesn't oppose it, Cassidy added, referring to the president. "He always gives a glib answer and skips on.
"It's the right thing to do — and the Congress has to do what is right and leave it up to him to decide and then let the American people decide between the two parties."
With a vote that handed the GOP its first victory
since taking over after the November elections, the Senate set up a showdown that ultimately will force Obama to make good on his veto threats.
The chamber, however, may not be able to muster the 67 votes needed to override Obama's objections. The bill
also must be reconciled with the version passed last month by the House. It could be on Obama's desk as early as next week.
The vote marked the first time the Senate passed a bill authorizing Keystone.
The Democrats breaking ranks to support the legislation were Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado; Tom Carper of Delaware; Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania; Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Jon Tester of Montana; Mark Warner of Virginia — and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who co-sponsored the legislation with Hoeven.
The same senators also voted to end a Democratic filibuster that set the stage for the final vote.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio missed the votes because he was traveling, and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was not present as he recovers from eye surgery.
Proposed by TransCanada Corp. in 2008, the pipeline would span 1,179 miles and travel through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska. The project then would connect with existing pipelines and carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to the Texas refineries.
Last month, Nebraska’s highest court
cleared its path through the state, setting aside a challenge to the power of GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts to dictate the route. The decision sent the matter back to Washington.
The State Department said last March that Keystone
would have no adverse environmental impact to most resources along the proposed route.
In 2012, Obama rejected the project after Congress attached a measure to a payroll tax cut extension that gave him a deadline to make a decision. He has said that he would not make a decision until the federal review process concludes.
Comments from federal agencies on whether Keystone is in the national interest are due on Monday.
Republicans have long argued that Keystone would create 42,000 jobs and would increase the nation's GDP by $3 billion. Democrats charged that the bill was a gift to a foreign oil company that would have little benefit to Americans.
Throughout the debate on the Senate floor, Democrats failed to get amendments to construct the pipeline with U.S. steel, ban exports of the oil and the products refined from it, and protect water resources.
"This bill is a disgrace," said Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "We tried on our side to make this a better bill and they turned us away."
But that did not faze Republicans, who said the onus now was on Obama to approve the pipeline.
"The fate of Keystone XL is in President Obama’s hands," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. "If he rejects the pipeline, it will be one of the most short-sighted decisions in memory."
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the legislation "an extraordinarily important jobs bill for our country. We hope the president, upon reflection, will agree to sign onto a bill that his State Department says could support up to 42,000 jobs, while creating little or no impact on the environment."
House Speaker John Boehner congratulated McConnell for passing Keystone "in an open, inclusive and bipartisan way."
"After dropping his scheme to tax middle-class college savings, we hope President Obama will now drop his threat to veto this common-sense bill that would strengthen our energy security and create thousands and thousands of new, good-paying American jobs.
"This is the kind of common-sense legislating the American people hired America’s new Congress to do," Boehner said.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, noted Keystone's arduous legislative journey.
"After 2,323 days of presidential delay and indecision, the Senate took action to pass, on a bipartisan vote, the Keystone XL pipeline energy and infrastructure project," she said.
"This action is the perfect example of how the Senate should operate.
"Over the past three weeks, we’ve held dozens of votes on amendments to this bill and senators have had the opportunity to have their voices heard in an open and transparent process," she added. "The Senate’s actions show that there is a healthy appetite for advancing energy legislation through the Senate."
Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, charged that "the president is out of excuses."
"He should support this project and join Republicans in getting Washington working again for the American people."
Now that the Senate came together on Keystone, Georgia Sen. David Perdue said he looked forward to addressing many other ills facing the country.
"For too long, Georgians, and people all over America, have been frustrated with the gridlock in Washington — and rightfully so," he said. "Now that we’re actually debating bills again, we can work towards lowering our debt and getting Americans back to work."
In his Newsmax interview, Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans might not get the 67 votes for a presidential override.
"We'll see," he said. "That's not easy to do.
"If we don't, then we'll have to try to attach it to something else that he won't veto."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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