Senate fails to override veto

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate failed to overturn President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would give Congress the power to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate failed to overturn President Barack Obama's veto of a bill that would give Congress the power to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Senate garnered 62 votes for the override, putting it five votes short of the two-thirds needed to send the bill back to the House of Representatives.

"At this point, we can't get above 63 votes, so pretty much we have to go to this other route of attaching it to other legislation," says Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Hoeven, the lead sponsor on the bill that would have taken the decision to approve Keystone XL out of Obama's hands, said he doesn't expect an override to succeed. The Senate can attempt to override the veto again, but Hoeven says the next step is to attach it to other legislation, perhaps another energy or infrastructure bill.

The TransCanada Corp. pipeline would carry about 830,000 barrels of oil per day -- -- including about 100,000 barrels from North Dakota's Oil Patch. The controversial pipeline project has been hailed by supporters as a job creator and another step toward energy independence. Opponents claim it will increase greenhouse gases, and potential spills could harm culturally and environmentally sensitive lands.


The debate -- along with lawsuits, route setbacks and environmental studies -- has held up Keystone XL's passage for more than six years. The U.S. State Department is expected to release an assessment on the pipeline in the near future.

The Senate first passed the bill 62-36 in late January, followed by a 270-152 vote in favor by the House. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Hoeven had hoped the bipartisan effort -- especially in the Senate -- to pass the bill would have convinced Obama to sign it.

But the president vetoed the bill on Feb. 24, the same day the legislation landed on his desk.

Misleading comments?

The bill attempted to "circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama wrote in his veto message to the Senate. The veto was only his third in his presidency.

"I've already said I'm happy to look at how we can increase pipeline production for U.S. oil, but Keystone is for Canadian oil to send that down to the Gulf," Obama told WDAY anchor Kerstin Kealy in a one-on-one interview Feb. 26. "It bypasses the United States and is estimated to create a little over 250, maybe 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing more broadly on American infrastructure for American jobs and American producers, and that's something that we very much support."

WDAY is owned by Forum Communications Co., which owns Agweek.

Obama's comments garnered four "Pinocchios" in the Washington Post Fact Checker blog, which called the president's statements more misleading than before because he suggested the pipeline would have no benefit for American producers. Hoeven said oil would be refined in the U.S.


Market research provider IHS Energy predicted most of the refined products from oil transported by Keystone XL would likely be consumed in the U.S.

Environmentalists have dismissed IHS Energy as a biased source, The Post wrote, though the State Department drew similar conclusions in its environmental impact state-

ment published Aug. 26, 2011.

"Canadian production of bitumen from the oil sands continues to grow, the majority of which is currently exported to the United States to be processed by U.S. refineries," according to the statement.

The Post says it is clear Obama had not read his own State Department's report when he claimed Keystone XL would bypass the U.S., which is why it gave the president the most "Pinocchios" possible.

"You're reading the material, he should read his material," Hoeven says. "The Washington Post called him out on it."

The State Department and Environmental Protection Agency differ in opinion on Keystone XL's carbon emission footprint. The EPA says it would significantly contribute to greenhouse gases.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica says Republicans have wasted months on the debate, focusing on issues like Keystone XL, "that don't impact the real challenges of our time.


"It was always clear that Republican leadership didn't have the votes to override President Obama's veto, but they decided to push forward anyway," Pica says. "Americans have grown weary of Congress spending so much time and money on cynical theatre to appease Big Oil."

Hoeven disagrees, stating Keystone XL is not only about creating energy, jobs and economic growth but also national security through energy security. The pipeline will build a global market, and Obama blocked that, he says.

"We can't build the right kind of energy plan if we can't build the energy infrastructure to move that energy as safely and cost effectively as possible," he says. "That means the right mix of pipelines, rails and roads."

Heitkamp, who recruited 10 Democrats in the Senate to pass the bill, says, "I'm not one to back down from a fight.

"We need to roll up our sleeves and offer up creative, proactive solutions that bring all sides to the table. Because if one thing is clear about this latest disappointment on Keystone, it's that the same tactics on the same bill aren't going to deliver the four Democratic votes that this project's survival hinges on."

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