The new Republican majorities are expected to include bills to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and expand the U.S. energy boom in their upcoming legislative package.
There will be a “renewed effort to debate and vote on the many bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support, but were never even brought to a vote by the Democratic Senate majority,” House Speaker John Boehner and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
“These bills include measures authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers,” the two Republican leaders wrote. “We’ll also consider legislation to help protect and expand America’s emerging energy boom and to support innovative charter schools around the country.”
Keystone XL’s approval has been an uphill battle for Republicans for six years now, as President Barack Obama holds firm to letting the Department of State continue its review process of the project — a project it has delayed for years.
Republicans have argued that a Republican Senate majority would ensure that a bill approving Keystone would reach Obama’s desk, forcing the president himself to take a stand on the pipeline. The GOP thinks that putting the bill on his desk would put him in a political bind.
This might be true, but Obama seems undaunted by a Republican-controlled Congress. The president said he’s going to let the State Department first make its determination on Keystone.
“Keystone I just consider as one small aspect of a broader trend that’s really positive for the American people,” Obama told reporters. “There’s an independent process that’s moving forward, I’m going to let that process play out.”
“Is this going to be good for the American people? Obama asked. “Is this going to be good for the pocketbook? Is it actually going to create jobs? Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that are coming down? And is it going to be on net something that doesn’t increase climate change that we’re going to have to grapple with?”
Despite Obama’s refusal to take a side on the issue, media outlets are reporting Republicans now have a filibuster-proof bloc of pro-Keystone lawmakers in the Senate. The National Journal notes that before the election, 57 senators were in favor of approving the pipeline– now there are at least 60 who support the project.
“And none of the 57 seats that were held by pro-Keystone lawmakers were surrendered to anti-pipeline newcomers,” the Journal notes.
“This really drives home the overwhelming support we have for Keystone. I think you’re going to see us bring up energy legislation right away, and Keystone will be one of the first things we pass,” said North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven.
But even 60-plus pro-Keystone votes in the Senate does not mean the pipeline will get Obama’s approval– as evidenced by his recent statements.
There is chance that even if the pipeline does get approved, environmental groups could sue to slow the process down on the federal, state or even local level– green groups filed suit back in 2011. Indeed, environmentalists have promised to continue opposing the pipeline.
“This is a president who’s said he wants to heal the planet— and now’s his chance to prove it,” said May Boeve, executive director of the anti-Keystone 350.org. “We know the Republicans are going to make Keystone a priority, but this isn’t their call. President Obama has the power to reject the Keystone pipeline outright, and do right by his own legacy.”
“We’re gearing up to hold his feet to the fire– and we’re confident that when everything’s said and done, Keystone XL will not be built,” Boeve said.
But putting a bill on Obama’s desk will force the president to make an uncomfortable political decision: approve the pipeline (which he called a small yet “positive” trend) or go against what the majority of Americans want.
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