Democrats expect Obama to veto pipeline bill if it passes Senate

Sun Nov 16, 2014 11:55am EST
 
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WASHINGTON Nov 16 (Reuters) - A Democratic leader said on Sunday a single vote could determine the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. Senate this week but that President Barack Obama was likely to veto the bill even if it passes.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and the Senate is expected to consider it on Tuesday.

The 45 Republicans in the Senate need to find 15 Democrats to join them in voting for the pipeline in order to send the bill to Obama. The legislation circumvents the need for approval of TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project by the Obama administration, which has been considering it for more than six years.

"It's within a vote or two," Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said of current Senate support, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union."

"I've done the counts and I can tell you it appears it may succeed or fail on a procedural vote with one or two senators making a difference.

"We are one vote short as we left last week. I know they're burning up the phone lines and emails trying to find that vote to support the procedural move. I don't know how successful they've been."

The pipeline's backers say it will create jobs and lower gasoline prices but opponents are concerned about its environmental impact. A court in Nebraska is considering the pipeline's route through that state. The decision to approve the pipeline or not rests with the State Department because the pipeline crosses an international border.

Obama has indicated he might use his veto if the bill does get through Congress. He said on Sunday in Australia, where he was attending a G20 summit, that the State Department evaluation and legal process should "play itself out."

"Every indication is the president will veto an attempt to pre-empt the regular process of reviewing the permit for this pipeline," Durbin said.

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said on "Fox News Sunday" he also expected Obama to veto the Keystone bill if it is approved. "Our information is that they're leaning that way but I don't have a hard assurance," he said. (Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Frances Kerry and Clelia Oziel)