Senate Fails To Override Keystone XL Veto, But This Won’t Be The Last You Hear Of It

CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite


The Senate moved the Keystone XL override vote up to Wednesday afternoon, due to an impending snowstorm. It failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to override the President’s veto Wednesday, voting 62-37.

“If we don’t win the battle today, we will win the war, because we will attach it to another piece of legislation,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told the Hill Wednesday.

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The U.S. Senate will begin the process of attempting to override the President’s veto on the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday, an attempt that’s not predicted to succeed but that likely won’t be the last time Congress tries to force approval of the controversial project.

The Senate is expected to issue a cloture vote on the override Wednesday, and then vote on whether to override the president’s veto on Thursday. Senate Democrats had been prepared to filibuster the override vote, a threat that prompted the vote for cloture, which allows the Senate to place a time limit on how long a bill is considered.

The Senate isn’t expected to succeed in overriding the president’s veto. As of Friday, the Hill reports, pipeline supporters had 63 out of the 67 votes needed to override the veto. Nine Senate Democrats had voted on the bill approving the pipeline, and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) told the Hill that he was working to get more Democrats to override the veto.

Still, the prospect of an override doesn’t look likely, and some Senators are already planning ways to get the pipeline approved via future legislation. Sen. Hoeven, for example, told the Hill that Keystone XL legislation could be tacked on to a long-term transportation funding bill, much to the chagrin of his Democratic colleagues.

“This is a ludicrous idea,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said. “First, they hold the Homeland Security funding bill hostage to immigration. Now they want to hold the highway bill hostage to big polluting Canadian special interests.”

President Obama vetoed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline last week, after two months of Congressional debate.

“Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto,” Obama said in his veto message.

The veto was the third of Obama’s presidency, but it doesn’t yet put the Keystone XL issue to rest. The White House is still waiting on a final assessment from the State Department on whether the pipeline is in the national interest, which the President will take into account as he makes his final decision.

Keystone XL’s future also hinges partially on a a fight over property rights in Nebraska. A group of landowners in the state have been fighting for years to keep TransCanada off their land, and despite a legal setback in January, they scored a victory earlier this month when a district judge halted TransCanada’s use of eminent domain in Nebraska.

The injunction will remain in place until Nebraska’s Supreme Court hears the landowners’ case, which claims that a state law that granted TransCanada the right to use eminent domain violates Nebraska’s constitution. Until that Nebraska court case is resolved, TransCanada doesn’t have a legal route through the state. If the judge chooses to rule in favor of the landowners, the pipeline could be delayed further.

Congress has tried and failed multiple times to force the President’s hand on the pipeline — in January, the House voted for the tenth time to approve Keystone XL. So, safe to say one failed veto override won’t be too discouraging.

“I think it’s more likely we are going to look to something like the highway bill and attaching it there. That’s an infrastructure bill, this is about infrastructure.” Hoeven said. “We have strong support in the House. Obviously, we have everybody on our side.”