NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

U.S. House passes bill to take decision on Keystone XL pipeline out of president’s hands

By a vote of two hun­dred and forty-one to one hun­dred and sev­en­ty-five, the U.S. House tonight opt­ed to approve a Repub­li­can-backed bill that essen­tial­ly seeks to give Cana­di­an petro­le­um giant Tran­sCana­da final approval to build the Key­stone XL pipeline through the Amer­i­can Mid­west (and across the bor­der into Alberta).

Nine­teen Democ­rats sided with two hun­dred and twen­ty-two Repub­li­cans to pass the bill (H.R. 3). No Repub­li­cans vot­ed against the bill, but some did not vote.

The Pacif­ic North­west­’s del­e­ga­tion broke down by par­ty lines. The roll call:

Vot­ing Aye: Repub­li­cans Doc Hast­ings, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Dave Reichert (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Raúl Labrador and Mike Simp­son (ID), Steve Daines (MT)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDer­mott, Adam Smith, Den­ny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Kurt Schrad­er (OR)

Not Vot­ing: Repub­li­cans Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler (WA), Don Young (AK)

The nine­teen Democ­rats who vot­ed against pro­tect­ing our envi­ron­ment and for rub­ber stamp­ing Tran­sCanada’s appli­ca­tion to build Key­stone XL were:

  • John Bar­row (GA-12) Blue Dog
  • San­ford Bish­op (GA-02) Blue Dog
  • Cheri Bus­tos (IL-17)
  • Jim Coop­er (TN-05) Blue Dog
  • Jim Cos­ta (CA-16) Blue Dog
  • Hen­ry Cuel­lar (TX-28) Blue Dog
  • William Enyart (IL-12)
  • Al Green (TX-09)
  • Gene Green (TX-29)
  • Ruben Hino­josa (TX-15)
  • Sean Mal­oney (NY-12)
  • Sean Math­e­son (UT-04) Blue Dog
  • Mike McIn­tyre (NC-07) Blue Dog
  • Patrick Mur­phy (FL-18)
  • William Owens (NY-21)
  • Col­in Peter­son (MN-07) Blue Dog
  • Ter­ri Sewell (AL-07)
  • File­mon Vela (TX-34)
  • John Yarmuth (KY-03)

(Thanks to Dai­ly Kos for com­pil­ing the list).

The bill now moves to the Sen­ate, which has pre­vi­ous­ly indi­cat­ed its sup­port for allow­ing the pipeline project to go for­ward. How­ev­er, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has threat­ened to veto the bill — on Tues­day, the White House released a state­ment mak­ing its oppo­si­tion to H.R. crys­tal clear.

The Admin­is­tra­tion strong­ly oppos­es H.R. 3, which among oth­er things, would: (1) declare that a Pres­i­den­tial Per­mit is not required for the Key­stone XL crude oil, cross-bor­der pipeline, includ­ing the Nebras­ka reroute eval­u­at­ed by the Nebras­ka Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Qual­i­ty; (2) deem that the final Envi­ron­men­tal Impact State­ment issued by the Depart­ment of State on August 26, 2011, sat­is­fies all Nation­al Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy Act and Nation­al His­toric Preser­va­tion Act require­ments; and (3) deem that Sec­re­tary of the Inte­ri­or actions sat­is­fy Endan­gered Species Act require­ments enabling the need­ed right-of-way. Fur­ther, the bill would require the Sec­re­tary of the Army to issue project-relat­ed per­mits pur­suant to the Rivers and Har­bors Appro­pri­a­tion Act and Sec­tion 404 of the Clean Water Act, and pro­hib­it the EPA Admin­is­tra­tor from restrict­ing or dis­al­low­ing any activ­i­ties or uses of areas autho­rized by the bill.

H.R. 3 con­flicts with long­stand­ing Exec­u­tive branch pro­ce­dures regard­ing the author­i­ty of the Pres­i­dent, the Sec­re­taries of State, the Inte­ri­or, and the Army, and the EPA Admin­is­tra­tor. In addi­tion, the bill is unnec­es­sary because the Depart­ment of State is work­ing dili­gent­ly to com­plete the per­mit deci­sion process for the Key­stone XL pipeline. The bill pre­vents the thor­ough con­sid­er­a­tion of com­plex issues that could have seri­ous secu­ri­ty, safe­ty, envi­ron­men­tal, and oth­er ramifications.

Because H.R. 3 seeks to cir­cum­vent long­stand­ing and proven process­es for deter­min­ing whether cross-bor­der pipelines are in the nation­al inter­est by remov­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Per­mit­ting require­ment for the Key­stone XL pipeline project, if pre­sent­ed to the Pres­i­dent, his senior advi­sors would rec­om­mend that he veto this bill.

Empha­sis is theirs.

An over­ride of a pres­i­den­tial veto requires a two-thirds vote of each house. There are four hun­dred and thir­ty-five mem­bers of the U.S. House and one hun­dred mem­bers of the U.S. Sen­ate. H.R. 3 did not pass with a two-thirds vote; even if the Repub­li­cans who did not vote in favor yes­ter­day were to have vot­ed aye, the bill would still not have passed with a veto-proof majority.

Repub­li­cans can­not get to a veto-proof major­i­ty in the House to pass H.R. 3 unless more Democ­rats were to flip and cross over. It seems very unlike­ly that any of the Democ­rats who vot­ed nay yes­ter­day would be inter­est­ed in chang­ing their votes in order to over­ride a veto by Pres­i­dent Obama.

Giv­en that the pres­i­dent has threat­ened to veto the bill, it does­n’t seem that Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship has any incen­tive to capit­u­late to Repub­li­can demands to give the bill a vote. H.R. 3 may sim­ply die in committee.

Repub­li­cans real­ly want Key­stone XL built, but they’d need the coop­er­a­tion of some oil-stained Democ­rats to pass H.R. 3. They’d need even more Demo­c­ra­t­ic help to over­ride a pres­i­den­tial veto… help they are extreme­ly unlike­ly to get.

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