Senate Prepares To OK Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Despite Obama Veto Threat

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. (AP)

The Senate could vote as early as today on a bipartisan measure to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline despite a veto threat from President Obama.

"The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. But the Keystone jobs debate has been important for the Senate and for our country," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote. "The Keystone infrastructure project has been studied endlessly, from almost every possible angle, and the same general conclusion keeps becoming clear: Build it."

Sixty senators — Republicans and Democrats — support the measure, but it doesn't appear to have enough backing to override a presidential veto.

The GOP-controlled House voted earlier this month to approve a similar measure. That vote came the same day as Nebraska's Supreme Court paved the way for the 1,179-mile pipeline to go ahead.

The U.S. State Department, which has been reviewing the pipeline for more than six years, is now deciding whether the project to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico is in the national interest. Congressional Republicans want to short-circuit that years-long process and grant the Keystone XL pipeline a permit immediately.

As we have previously reported, the "pipeline is a hot-button political issue, with politicians from both parties, some unions and energy companies supporting its approval while environmental groups, some Nebraska landowners and some liberal Democrats oppose it."

Supporters say it will create more than 40,000 jobs, but opponents are skeptical — with one estimate noting that it would create just 35 permanent jobs.

NPR's Jeff Brady previously reported that the pipeline is controversial primarily because it would transport crude from Canada's tar sands, which emit more pollution during production than traditional forms of oil. But a State Department environmental review last year concluded the pipeline wouldn't have a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

The White House has vowed the veto any legislation that approves the $8 billion project, saying it is awaiting the State Department's review.

Our full coverage of the pipeline is here.

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