Skip to main content

U.S. Senator John Hoeven, centre, and Senator Joe Manchin, left, hold a news conference with Canada's Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer, right, to discuss legislation to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 22, 2015.JONATHAN ERNST/Reuters

Keystone XL Congressional backers are girding for an initial defeat and preparing to escalate the confrontation with President Barack Obama over the controversial plan to ship Alberta's oil sands across the United States to the Gulf coast.

"We'll try and get 67," said Senator John Hoeven, the North Dakota Republican who is leading the floor fight in the Senate to cobble together enough votes to override Mr. Obama's promised veto of Congressional efforts to approve Keystone XL.

"If we can't, we have to attach [the Keystone XL approval bill] to something else." That would be a bill Mr. Obama could not veto without shutting down the government.

Nine Democrats back Keystone XL. When they are added to the Senate's 54 Republicans, the total still falls four short of the 67 needed to veto-proof the bill.

"We will get four or five more, I hope so," said Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat and pro-Keystone XL co-sponsor, who joined Mr. Hoeven on Thursday at a Senate news conference intended to portray Canada as a responsible allied oil supplier.

"Canada is committed to developing the oil sands with good environmental stewardship," Mr. Hoeven said.

Gary Doer, Canada's ambassador to the United States and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's point man on Keystone XL, joined the two senators.

He warned that rejecting Keystone XL would cause more deaths and worsen global warming, adding that those claims were not "Canadian talking points" but taken from the State Department's assessment of TransCanada Corp.'s $8-billion pipeline project.

"If the President says no to the pipeline, he is saying yes to higher amounts of oil on rail, and higher greenhouse gases, … and more death and injury," Mr. Doer said, insisting that his presence at the new conference did not step over any lines.

"This is bipartisan, this is not political," the ambassador said, noting that a senator from each party was there.

Rather, he said, his role was simply to point out the facts and correct the misconceptions about Keystone XL – which opponents claim would spur development of Alberta's vast oil sands reserves.

"Four years ago, people, some of them sincerely, said, 'If we don't approve the pipeline, the oil will stay in the ground'," Mr. Doer said. "Well, they have been proven wrong with every train and every truck that has rumbled through our two countries. When pipelines aren't built, oil still gets to market and it gets to market on rail or truck."

Both senators echoed that theme – that Keystone XL will eventually get built whatever Mr. Obama may do.

"This line will be built, that's inevitable, it will be built," Mr. Manchin said. "To say it will not be built is ridiculous."

Earlier this week, Mr. Hoeven said the President has run out of reasons to delay.

"All seven states on the route have approved this project," he said. "It has 70-per-cent support with the American public. And it has bipartisan support in the Congress, yet the President still holds it up."