The White House preempted Congress today, saying the President would veto any potential bill that attempts to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. That legislation was tapped by Mitch McConnell as the top priority for the new GOP-controlled Senate, which looks to have 63 votes in favor of the project—above the 60 needed to circumvent any filibuster by the Democrats, but well short of the 67 required to override Obama’s veto. The House has passed similar legislation in the past, and with the Senate looking to open discussion on the bill later this week, Obama seems to be strongly signaling that their efforts will be in vain.This doesn’t exhaust Congress’s options for pushing the Keystone issue, though, as Reuters reports:
If [President Obama] rejects this bill, Keystone backers will attempt to attach the measure to wider legislation Obama could find harder to veto, perhaps legislation on energy efficiency, exporting natural gas, or on appropriations.
The President has long insisted that the pipeline was a State Department matter, and has effectively used that approval process to punt on the issue for six years running now. Obama appears to be torn between the facts of the case—that the pipeline itself is just a conduit for crude, and as such has no effect on global emissions—and the optics of it all, which in recent years have veered farther and farther away from these aforementioned facts. Greens have made Keystone their marquee issue, and the President is wary of polluting his environmental legacy in his last years in office. If he had his druthers, we don’t doubt Obama would love to kick the Keystone can down the road all the way to his successor.But it looks like Congress is going to force his hand, and as the President’s excuses for delaying continue to evaporate, it looks like he’ll soon have to make a decision. Unfortunately, it increasingly looks like that choice will be a political rather than a rational one based on the merits.