Defying GOP, Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill

Posted February 24, 2015

— Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency.

Obama offered no indication of whether he'll eventually issue a permit for the pipeline, whose construction has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate about environmental policy and climate change. Instead, Obama sought to reassert his authority to make the decision himself, rebuffing GOP lawmakers who will control both the House and Senate for the remainder of the president's term.

"The presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously," Obama said in a brief notice delivered to the Senate. "But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people."

Obama vetoed the bill in private with no fanfare, in contrast to the televised ceremony Republican leaders staged earlier this month when they signed the bill and sent it to the president. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans were "not even close" to giving up the fight and derided the veto as a "national embarrassment."

"Not surprisingly, the President’s veto was made behind closed doors even though an overwhelming majority of the American people support the construction of the pipeline because of the good paying jobs and affordable energy it will provide," Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said in a statement. "Instead of unjustifiably blocking bipartisan legislation, President Obama should begin working with Congress to advance initiatives that will improve the lives of Americans and help our nation reach its full potential.”

“It's clear from the President's first veto that he has no intention on working with Congress to create jobs here," Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said in a statement.

The move sends the politically charged issue back to Congress, where Republicans haven't shown they can muster the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override Obama's veto. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, the bill's chief GOP sponsor, said Republicans are about four votes short in the Senate and need about 11 more in the House.

Although the veto is Obama's first since Republicans took control on Capitol Hill, it was not likely to be the last. GOP lawmakers are lining up legislation rolling back Obama's actions on health care, immigration and financial regulation that Obama has promised to similarly reject.

"He's looking at this as showing he still can be king of the hill, because we don't have the votes to override," Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a vocal opponent of Obama's climate change agenda, said in an interview. "If he vetoed this, he's going to veto many others that are out there."

First proposed more than six years ago, the Keystone XL pipeline project has sat in limbo ever since, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary. The pipeline would connect Canada's tar sands with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast that specialize in processing heavy crude oil.

Republicans and the energy industry say the $8 billion project would create jobs, spur growth and increase America's independence from Mideast energy sources. Democrats and environmental groups have sought to make the pipeline a poster child for the type of dirty energy sources they say are exacerbating global warming.

For his part, Obama says his administration is still weighing the pipeline's merits, and he has repeatedly threatened to veto any attempts by lawmakers to make the decision for him.

Environmental groups said they were confident Obama's veto was a prelude to a full rejection of the pipeline. But TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, said it "remains fully committed" to building. And the Canadian government said it was not a matter of if, but when.

The GOP-controlled House passed the bill earlier in February on a 270-152 vote, following weeks of debate and tweaks in the Senate to insert language stating that climate change is real and not a hoax. Republican leaders in Congress delayed sending the bill to the White House until they returned from a weeklong recess, ensuring they would be on hand to denounce the president when he vetoed the bill.

The veto forced Republicans, still reveling in their dramatic gains in the midterm elections, to confront the limitations of being unable to turn their ideas into law without the president's consent — despite the fact they now control both chambers of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would start the process to try to override Obama's veto by March 3. Republicans were also considering inserting Keystone into other critical legislation dealing with energy, spending or infrastructure that Obama would be less likely to veto, said Hoeven.

Obama last wielded his veto power in October 2010, nixing a relatively mundane bill dealing with recognition of documents notarized out of state. With the Keystone bill, Obama's veto count stands at just three — far fewer than most of his predecessors. Yet his veto threats have been piling up rapidly since Republicans took full control of Congress, numbering more than a dozen so far this year.

The president has said he won't approve Keystone if it's found to significantly increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. A State Department analysis found that the tar sands would be developed one way or another, meaning construction of the pipeline wouldn't necessarily affect emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month called for that analysis to be revisited, arguing that a drop in oil prices may have altered the equation.


Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.


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  • Judy Wood Feb 25, 2015
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    This "oil" is for China, not for us. It will not help us in any way. The profits are mostly for TransCanada. How do you so-called patriots feel about a foreign company using eminent domain in America? Why not just send it through Canada? We have bitumen going through the country in pipelines right now. There have already been quite a few spills from it. You won't hear about this in mainstream media. Just google Mayfair Arkansas spill.

  • John Dees Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

    prevented a Bush recession? The subprime mortgage crisis was a democrat deal that started around 2005.
    Your recovery numbers are nothing more than cooked books. Look around the real world these days.
    The bailout of GM cost the taxpayers 11 billion and cost GM a lot of sales . Awesome accomplishment right?And now people like me will not buy them again, ever. - and there are lots of me people that feel GM is a corrupt union organization.
    You should take some time and learn more about business before you endorse a minimum wage increase. It doesn't work in the real world, only in a liberal utopia. And NO, there is not lots more, we just need to get through the next 21 months of this failure and hopefully, elect Hillary next. Good lord I am just kidding! We don't need Obama light

  • Donna Gale Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

    John Dees, I accept your challenge. Here are just a few things our current President has done for our country. Prevented a Bush depression and improved the economy by signing American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. By end of his 1st year this had created 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy by 3.5%. Recovered virtually all of the bailout money. Oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in 8 yrs. Implemented an auto industry rescue plan which saved as many as 1 million jobs and what many consider the entire U.S. auto industry. Signed the CARD Act designed to protect consumers from unfair credit card practices. Ordered all federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 an hr., leading the way to a national increase. Whew...and there is lots more. Google it dude.

  • Jeremy Gilchrist Feb 24, 2015
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    Eat it McConnell!

  • Floyd Bridges Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    The anti-war movement during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said the EXACT same thing about anyone who drove an SUV - supporting terrorists. So, who's drinking the kool-aid?

  • Alan Baker Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

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    Yup, those few dozen jobs sure would have made a difference, but I'm sure those engineers won't have much trouble finding other work, unlike the thousands who would have a job for a year or so and then be left with nothing once the pipeline was completed.

    As far as "progress," I don't think that word means what you think it means. Kindly stop using it.

  • Christopher Rose Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

    Also just as an aside with the current oil glut, all of this may be a moot point. The Saudis have said repeatedly they won't budge on production numbers even if oil goes below $20 a barrel. Which means they may mothball it soon regardless of what congress or the president thinks. Politicians getting people to argue amongst themselves over moot issues. Another don't take the bait.

  • Christopher Rose Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

    I would caution those both for and against it that this is really just political theater meant to rile you up for support of other issues. It's also a great campaign fund raiser. All that was rejected was an automatic approval by congress. It is still in review through the normal process and unless some major thing comes up it will in all probability become a reality. Just not as fast as some want. It won't provide a ton of jobs. It also won't be the end of the environment. It really has been over glorified and vilified by politicians. (Something they love to do) Both Obama and Congress know this. Don't take the bait.

  • Tanya Rose Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

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    The problem with your assertion that Obama is helping terrorists by keeping oil off the market is faulty. Oil production in the US has increased since he took office. I'm not saying he increased it, more he has not stood in the way. He hasn't done anything to curb fracking and has recently suggested opening up the Atlantic coast to off shore drilling.
    As far as the Middle East and the terrorists are concerned, considering they get the majority of their money from oil it would make sense to explore and develop new means of energy to make the world less dependent on oil thus cutting off a large part of the money that funds the terrorists. And this pipeline is not going to help our economy-it's going to move Canadian oil, that is normally sold in the mid-west, to the gulf thus affecting the supply of oil in the mid-west and increasing prices. All the pipeline will do is make it easier for Canada to sell Canadian oil.

  • John Dees Feb 24, 2015
    user avatar

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    If it will advance the economy, safety or well being of this country he will nix it and the lame republicans will say yes sir like the good little lap dogs they are.
    This guy is a pathetic president and I defy anyone to name something good he has done for this country. It is the same question I have posed a few times and always get no response. It says a lot for a guy who has been in the office for 6 plus years.