Flanked by other pro-Keystone XL politicians, House Speaker John Boehner put his signature Friday to a bill that shoulders aside President Barack Obama and seizes congressional control of the approval process for the long-delayed Canadian pipeline.
Despite the staged photo opportunity as Republicans from both the House of Representatives and the Senate gathered to watch Mr. Boehner sign the bill that the President has vowed to veto, it will not be sent immediately to the Oval Office because Congress is on recess next week.
As part of the ongoing political theatre surrounding Keystone XL, the Republicans want to be back in Washington when Mr. Obama makes good on his veto threat.
"To the President I would just say this: 'Do the right,' " said Mr. Boehner, an Ohio Republican. "Sign this bill and help us create more jobs in America and create a healthier economy."
Mr. Obama has publicly expressed doubts about Keystone XL's value to U.S. consumers, saying the pipeline would primarily let Canada export Alberta's landlocked oil sands across the United States to Gulf Coast ports where it would be sent to foreign countries, a claim trumpeted by opponents of the project and denounced as "fear-mongering" by TransCanada Corp. president Russ Girling.
Mr. Obama says has yet to make up his mind about approving or rejecting Keystone XL and his threatened veto is intended only to preserve presidential authority over ruling on trans-border infrastructure projects.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has lobbied for years on behalf's of TransCanada's $8-billion pipeline, has said he won't "take no for an answer"
Republicans, who now hold a majority in both Houses of Congress, lack the necessary votes – even with the support of Democrats who back Keystone XL – to override a presidential veto.
But they remain determined to force a political confrontation with Mr. Obama over Keystone XL. Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, has said a Keystone XL approval bill will next be tucked inside some "must-pass" legalisation such as an appropriations bill, in effect daring the President to veto something that could shut down the government.
Meanwhile, Keystone XL faces more legal problems following a ruling Thursday that ordered TransCanada to end forced acquisitions of pipeline right-of-way in Nebraska. That case, pitting a handful of landowners against TransCanada turns on whether the Canadian company got special treatment from the state legislature while avoiding the usual permitting process. It could wind up again in Nebraska Supreme Court.
Mr. Obama had previously used the uncertainly surrounding the legality of TransCanada's route permit in Nebraska as an excuse to delay deciding about Keystone XL. He could do so again.