Senate approves Keystone pipeline bill, in face of White House veto threat

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The Senate passed legislation Thursday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a looming veto showdown with the White House.

The legislation passed on a 62-36 vote, after lawmakers spent weeks considering amendments. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month, though there are slight differences that have to be ironed out before the bill can go to President Obama’s desk.

The vote nevertheless marked the first time the Senate has voted to approve the controversial Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline. Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans to back the measure.

“Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote. “It would support thousands of good American jobs and as the president’s own State Department has indicated, it would do this with minimal environmental impact.”

Russ Girling, CEO of the company behind the project TransCanada, said in a statement Thursday afternoon the firm was “encouraged” by the “strong bipartisan” showing in the Senate.

Still, Republicans remain several votes shy of the 67 needed in the 100-member chamber to override a presidential veto.

And asked Thursday about the vote, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that Obama would veto.

It remains unclear whether majority Republicans could round up additional support to override. Since they took over the Senate in January, Republicans have made approving the Keystone pipeline their top priority on the heels of big wins in the November elections.

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