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Senate Defies Obama, Passes Bill Approving Keystone Pipeline
President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma. Photo Credit: Getty Images (Tom Pennington).

Senate Defies Obama, Passes Bill Approving Keystone Pipeline

"Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy..."

The Senate passed legislation Thursday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a vote that will result in President Barack Obama's first veto of legislation from the new Republican-led House and Senate.

Senate Republicans called up the Keystone bill as the first piece of legislation in the new Senate, and gave the Senate a different look by allowing consideration of several amendments to the bill throughout January.

Obama Speaks on Keystone XL Pipeline The White House says President Barack Obama would veto a Senate bill to approve the Keystone pipeline. That pledge will be put to the test, as the Senate approved the bill Thursday. Image: Getty Images (Tom Pennington).

The Senate failed to advance it earlier in the week, but after several more days and several more amendments, the Senate was able to win over enough Democratic votes and pass it. The final vote was 62-36, and only 51 were needed for passage.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier in the day that it's time to pass the common-sense bill that Republicans and even many Democrats support.

"Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy. It would support thousands of good American jobs," McConnell said. "And as the president's own State Department has indicated, it would do this with minimal environmental impact."

"So let's make some progress for the American people by voting to pass the Keystone jobs and infrastructure bill," he added.

The Republican House should be able to pass the Senate bill easily, since the House requires just a simple majority for all votes, while the Senate needs a supermajority to advance bills to the final vote stage. It's possible House Republicans will take up the Senate bill as early as next week.

But House passage would set up the next challenge of how to get around Obama's veto threat. Despite bipartisan support for the bill, the administration has continued to argue that it would usurp the president's authority to oversee the regular approval process.

Republicans have scoffed at this answer, since it's already been more than six years since the application to build the pipeline was first submitted. As Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) put it earlier this year, "The permitting for the Keystone pipeline has taken longer than it took for the United States to win World War II."

Nonetheless, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that Obama would veto the legislation, and if he does, Congress could only get around that veto with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

Today's Senate vote showed supporters aren't quite there in the Senate. A total of 67 votes would be needed to override Obama in the Senate, and supporters only mustered 62.

In the House, 290 votes would be needed, and it will likely become more clear next week if there are that many supporters in the lower chamber.

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