Republicans intent on seeing the Keystone XL pipeline get built are looking to stay two steps ahead of President Barack Obama, who late last month vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have approved construction of the $8 billion project to transport crude oil from Canada to Texas.
The National Journal
reports that in anticipation of the Senate not having enough votes to override the president’s veto — a vote is expected Thursday — some members of the GOP, such as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, are planning a new approach that includes attaching Keystone to an appropriations bill, the transportation reauthorization bill, or broader energy legislation.
"Those of us who think it should pass ... I think are going to look for other ways to deal with this, either on an appropriations process or some other way legislatively," Cornyn said.
North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, the Keystone bill’s chief sponsor, told The Associated Press
that even with some Democratic support, Republicans are about four votes short of the 67 votes needed to override the president’s veto in the Senate, and about 11 votes short in the House. A two-thirds majority in both chambers is required.
Eight Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Montana’s Jon Tester — have pledged to side with Republicans and vote in favor of a veto override.
A GOP aide told the Journal that there is discussion about attaching the Keystone legislation to a bill reauthorizing transportation programs, which expire at the end of May.
"We think that will come up in fairly short order, and Keystone is an infrastructure project, and that's a bill that should win broad bipartisan support so it would be much harder for the president to veto," the aide said.
Hoeven said there’s also discussion of tying the pipeline to legislation dealing with energy, spending or infrastructure that Obama would be less likely to veto, according to the AP.
He reiterated those ideas to the National Journal.
"No concrete decisions have been made yet, but whatever we do, we're going to be talking with Democrats to try to find a vehicle that has the best chance of passing," he said.
But the idea may not sway the entire Republican caucus.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Journal that attaching Keystone to a comprehensive energy package would complicate a bill that is already difficult to pass.
"I'd rather see us approve Keystone before we get to that," she said. "There are going to be other issues that will be worthy of debate in the context of broader energy legislation, and I'd rather that we focus on that."
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