WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate will likely pass a bill approving the long-pending Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday, a measure the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto.
Republicans have made approving Keystone their top priority of the new Congress after winning control of the Senate in November’s elections, but they are four votes shy of the 67 needed in the 100-member chamber to override any veto.
Senators are scheduled to vote after 2:30 p.m. EST (1930 GMT) following debate on more amendments to the bill that would bypass the Obama administration’s review of Keystone.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that Keystone would be good for the middle class and “pump billions” of dollars into the economy.
But Obama has raised new questions about the number of jobs it would create and said that Keystone would mainly benefit TransCanada Corp, not U.S. gasoline consumers.
While the project would create thousands of temporary construction jobs, a State Department report said less than 40 workers would be needed to permanently operate Keystone XL.
Obama wants the State Department to finish determining whether the pipeline is in the national interest, but backers say the approval process of more than six years has gone on too long. The project would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy oil from Alberta and light U.S. crude to Nebraska en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
The House of Representatives has voted nine times to approve the project. Aides to House leaders did not immediately answer questions about whether the chamber would vote to pass the Senate bill or if it would go into conference talks.
Obama is expected to make his own decision on the pipeline soon. The State Department has told other federal agencies they have until Feb. 2 to conclude their assessment of the project.
Even if Obama vetoes or decides against the pipeline, Republicans will keep pushing. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, a sponsor of the bill, plans to attach a measure to a spending bill or other legislation later in the year that Obama would find hard to veto.
Editing by Matthew Lewis