Nebraska's highest court removes a major obstacle to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a double blow, the newly empowered Republican-led Congress and the Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday undercut President Barack Obama's opposition to the long Keystone XL oil pipeline.
But the White House, which issued a veto threat earlier in the week, said its "position and posture" remained unchanged, and environmentalists said Obama should kill what would amount to "a global warming disaster."
The House voted 266-153 to approve a bill authorizing construction of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, with 28 Democrats joining majority Republicans in support. It was one of the first pieces of legislation considered by the new, GOP-controlled Congress, which has made approval of the pipeline a top priority and has long been headed for a confrontation with Obama on the issue.
The Republican cause was emboldened Friday, when Nebraska's highest court tossed out a lawsuit challenging the pipeline's route, an obstacle the White House said must be removed before it could decide whether the huge cross-border project was in the national interest and the administration could proceed with its own review.
"We shouldn't be debating it, we should be building it," said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. On the House floor, he read aloud a passage of the administration's veto threat that objected to authorizing the project "despite uncertainty due to ongoing litigation in Nebraska."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following the court's decision, renewed his call for Obama to reconsider his promise to veto the measure.
"Today's ruling provides the perfect opportunity for the president to change his unproductive posture on this jobs project and reverse his veto threat," McConnell said. "The president now has every reason to sign it."
But a White House spokesman said the court's decision changed nothing.
"Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests, and if presented to the president, he will veto the bill," said deputy press secretary Eric Schultz.
The House vote marked the 10th time the chamber has voted on legislation to advance the Keystone XL pipeline, an $8 billion project that would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries along a proposed 1,179-mile route through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
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