The House passed legislation Friday that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, with the help of 28 Democrats.
Members approved the bill in a 266-153 vote, an easy majority in a new House that has 246 Republican members. But that vote is still not strong enough to overcome opposition from President Barack Obama, who has threatened to veto the bill.
To override a veto, it would take a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, which means 290 votes in the House.
Still, the vote is being hailed as a sign of momentum by Republicans, who have pushed for the project to be approved for several years now. Several GOP members used Friday's House debate to say the Obama administration has delayed the project for far too long.
"The permitting for the Keystone pipeline has taken longer than it took for the United States to win World War II," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). "Isn't that lovely?"
The House has approved similar bills before, but one key difference this time around is the Republican Senate. The Senate is expected to bring up the bill next week, and only needs to find six Democrats to overcome procedural hurdles and pass it.
The debate allowed both sides to run over their well-rehearsed arguments for and against the project. Republicans said it would create jobs and would pose minimal environmental risks, while Democrats said there are environmental dangers and rejected the idea that it would create any signficant long-term job growth.
But the debate got a shot in the arm from reports that the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out a challenge to a state law that was used to approve the pipeline's route through Nebraska.
That ruling was important because the Obama administration has said the pipeline should not be approved in part because of uncertainty over legal issues in Nebraska. Resolving that issue means there's one less reason for opposition by the White House.
"President Obama is now out of excuses for blocking the Keystone pipeline and the thousands of American jobs it would create," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in response to the ruling. "Finally, it's time to start building."
But the news out of Nebraska didn't change President Barack Obama's mind. "Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests, and if presented to the president, he will veto the bill," deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz said.
Just before the vote, the State Department said the Nebraska decision means an inter-agency review of the national interest of the pipeline will resume. That review was stalled once the Nebraska law was challenged, and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she had no estimate of how much longer that review might take.