The Republican-controlled House passed legislation Friday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting the stage for a Senate showdown that mixes energy politics with a fight over Louisiana's Senate seat.
The vote was 252-161 in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., in an effort to boost his chances to take Louisiana's Senate seat away from Democrat Mary Landrieu. The two are headed for a December runoff. Landrieu successfully pushed the Senate to hold a vote on the measure next week.
The pipeline has been stalled by environmental reviews, objections to the route it would take and politics for six years. But the latest bid by House Republicans has the best chance of reaching the President Barack Obama's desk. While the White House has issued veto threats on similar legislation before, it had yet to do so Friday.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it was time for the president to listen to the American people, especially after the Republican gains in the midterm elections, and sign the bill.
Senate supporters said they were confident they would have the 60 votes needed for passage come Tuesday.
Obama, questioned about the issue while on the other side of the globe, said the administration's long-stalled review of the project cannot be completed before knowing the outcome of a legal challenge to the pipeline's route through Nebraska.
"I don't think we should short-circuit that process," he said at a news conference in Myanmar.
The 1,179-mile project is proposed to go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Advocates say it will create thousands of jobs and aid energy security, but environmentalists warn of possible spills and say the pipeline will expedite development of some of the dirtiest oil available.
The State Department said in a Jan. 31 report the project would not significantly boost carbon emissions because the oil was likely to find its way to market by other means. It added that transporting it by rail or truck would cause greater environmental problems than if the Keystone XL pipeline were built.