Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto efforts by Republicans to wrest control away from him on the long-delayed decision about the $8-billion project that environmentalists claim will spur development of some of the planet’s filthiest fossil fuels.

JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters

The showdown between U.S. President Barack Obama and the Republican-dominated Congress over the controversial Keystone XL edged closer Monday in a test vote as the Senate cleared the 60-vote threshold needed to proceed with legislation approving the pipeline that would send Canadian oil sands crude across the United States.

The 63-32 cloture vote set the stage for passage of Keystone XL legislation later this week.

Mr. Obama has vowed to veto efforts by Republicans to wrest control away from him on the long-delayed decision about the $8-billion project that environmentalists claim will spur development of some of the planet's filthiest fossil fuels.

Story continues below advertisement

Significantly, the vote was short of the crucial 67 – or two-thirds majority – needed in the 100-seat Senate to override a presidential veto.

Keystone XL final approval remains far from certain, despite the new Republican majority in the Senate giving the party control of both Houses of Congress.

Proponents say the controversial pipeline that will send 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian heavy crude to the Texas Gulf coast will displace imports from Venezuela and the Middle East. Opponents argue Keystone XL will worsen global warming by unlocking Alberta's vast reserves of carbon-heavy crude.

The full Senate is expected to vote, after considering amendments, on the Keystone XL bill on Friday. It has already passed the House of Representatives – for the 10th time – and could be on Mr. Obama's desk before the end of the month.

Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who is now majority leader in the Senate, said the President has run out of excuses for further delay.

"Nebraska's Supreme Court has ruled on what has to be the last conceivable pretext to veto" pro-Keystone XL legislation, he said.

Nebraska Supreme Court vacated a lower court decision that the route approval flouted state law. But landowners and others challenging the process in Nebraska may still have legal recourse. All four of the seven Nebraska Supreme Court judges who ruled on the issue said the state route approval process was unconstitutional. But because a super-majority of five is needed on constitutional issues, the lower court ruling was overturned.

Story continues below advertisement

That leaves open the door to a new court challenge – perhaps should energy company TransCanada Corp. attempt to use eminent domain to force recalcitrant landowners to sell their property. "This decision has simply pushed down the road or punted away to be answered on another day," Brian Jorde, one of the lawyers representing the opposed landowners said Monday. "It's up to TransCanada to make the next move," he added.

The White House, which used the uncertainty over whether the Keystone XL route through Nebraska was lawful as an excuse for delay, changed its reason for threatening a veto last week.

The White House now says a veto is still coming but shifted on the reason, claiming the President wouldn't allow Congress to rule on what is traditionally an executive decision.

"If this bill passes this Congress, the President wouldn't sign it," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "There's already a well-established process in place to consider whether infrastructure projects like this are in the best interest of the country."

Republicans believe they can force the President's hand.

"Right now we've got about 63 [votes]," said Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican and co-sponsor of the Keystone XL approval legislation. "But we're going to the floor with an open amendment process, trying to foster more bipartisanship … so that we can pass this measure and other measures and either override the veto or attach the bill to other legislation that will get 67 votes."

Story continues below advertisement

But the nine Democrats currently voting with all 54 Republicans in the Senate may be unwilling to support Republican efforts to tuck Keystone inside a must-pass appropriations bill and thus put the President in the position where a veto could shut down the government.

Nevada Democratic Senator Harry Reid called Keystone XL a "farce" that has "taken on a life of its own and it's being used for political purposes."

Anti-Keystone XL activists claims thousands will rally against the pipeline in more that a dozen U.S. and Canadian cities on Tuesday.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies