WASHINGTON – House Republicans are on track to easily pass legislation to authorize the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, moving Congress closer to a clash with President Barack Obama.
The project would move tar sands oil from Canada 1,179 miles (1,900 kilometres) south to refineries on Gulf of Mexico Coast. Supporters say it would create jobs and ease American dependence on Middle East oil. Critics argue that the drilling is environmentally harmful, and said much of the Canadian crude would be exported with little or no impact on America’s drive to reduce oil imports, which have already been greatly reduced because of record U.S. oil production.
The pipeline has also been one of the biggest areas of conflict between Obama and the Republican leaders of the new Congress.
Friday’s vote will be the 10th time since July 2011 that the House has voted on legislation advancing the pipeline, and the outcome is expected to be no different: It will pass.
But the effort is still likely to hit a dead end, despite the fact the Senate on Thursday cleared an identical bill out of a committee.
The White House has said Obama will veto the bill if it passes the Republican-controlled Congress because it “prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests.”
Republicans have countered that Obama is derailing a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s energy infrastructure that the majority of Americans want. The $5.4 billion project, which would move tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, was first proposed in 2008.
The Senate bill has the backing of 60 members, enough to pass the full chamber, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to start debate immediately. Democrats blocked his effort, setting up a test vote early next week.