The Obama administration’s latest Keystone XL delay is having an unintended consequence: the revival of the effort in Congress to circumvent the White House by forcing approval of the project.
While a plurality of U.S. senators are on record supporting Keystone, no bill relating to the pipeline other than a non- binding resolution has passed in the chamber. That’s because some Democrats who back it haven’t wanted to usurp President Barack Obama’s authority to make the final call.
“We’ll have to start counting noses again,” first-term Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, said after the State Department said last week it was again delaying a recommendation on the project. “Now that this process has taken a turn for the worse, I think we need to have those discussions again.”
Forcing approval remains a heavy lift — backers acknowledge that they still are a few votes short of the 60 needed to advance a bill in the 100-member Senate. It would require two-thirds of the Senate — or 67 members — to override an almost certain presidential veto. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in charge of the agenda and a pipeline foe, has declined to bring up legislation that would bypass Obama on Keystone.