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Fight Brewing

House GOP, Dems, plan to spar over Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone XL Pipeline protesters / AP
• May 22, 2013 1:25 pm

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Supporters of legislation that would authorize the construction of the Keystone Pipeline say they are happy to engage opponents who signaled Tuesday that they would fight the legislation when it comes up for a vote.

The bill, authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R., Neb.), would allow the company TransCanada to move forward with construction of the pipeline without approval from the Obama administration, which critics say has slow-walked the approval process.

House Republican sources say the legislation will come to the floor on Thursday.

The House is expected to approve the bill, but the White House has already signaled that President Barack Obama will veto it, citing "longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president, the secretaries of state, the interior, and the Army, and the EPA administrator."

Some Democratic opponents of the legislation still plan to put up a fight during the 90 minutes of debate allocated by the House Rules Committee.

In offering various amendments on the House floor, they will insist that the pipeline will fuel U.S. energy exports and not create "energy security," as proponents claim.

Terry spokesman Larry Farnsworth acknowledged that some of the oil will be exported, but insisted the pipeline would be an economic boon.

"The fact of the matter is that those refining jobs down in the gulf coast and the jobs that would be supported with the actual building of the Keystone Pipeline are good, high-paying jobs, and they would contribute greatly to those local economies," Farnsworth said.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) said the amendment is an attempt to "predetermine an action."

"First thing’s first," Blackburn said. "Let’s get to the point where we’re not having to spending billions of dollars a day on OPEC or countries that do not mean us well."

Blackburn and other Republicans said the bill’s supporters are happy to engage in debate over the export provisions and other expected amendments.

"If House Democrats, supported by President Obama, want to oppose the jobs, economic growth, and energy security provided by the construction of the Keystone Pipeline, that is a debate we are happy to have," a House leadership aide said.

Democrats will offer nine amendments in total. Rep. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.) will propose language that would strike provisions limiting court challenges to the pipeline’s construction. Environmentalist lawsuits are expected if the pipeline is approved.

Rush and other Democratic opponents of the Keystone Pipeline supported similar provisions limiting court challenges to the Trans-Alaska pipeline when Congress considered the project in 2004, Farnsworth said.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a cosponsor of Terry’s bill, said opposition to the pipeline is rooted in politics, not policy.

"The Keystone XL Pipeline has become the ‘shiny object’ that the hyperpartisan Left uses as a litmus test for President Obama’s commitment to the radical green agenda," Pompeo said in an email.

"Fact is, hundreds of miles of pipelines have been built these past few years in the United States and there are also many pipelines crossing the U.S.-Canada border," he added.

Pompeo said he does not want a floor fight—he just wants the pipeline built.

"We just want to see the project completed so we can have more jobs and cheaper energy for working families," he said. "The quicker that happens without obstruction from the radical Left, the better."