A Victory (at Least for Now) for Opponents of the Keystone Pipeline

We've been following the saga of the Keystone XL pipeline for a while now, and the battle rages on in Washington.  Yesterday, the Republican-led Senate attempted to override President Obama's veto of a bill to approve the pipeline.  For those a bit lost in all the political and legal wrangling, the recent story began with a bill in Congress designed to grant approval to the controversial pipeline project.  The bill passed the Senate on January 29 and the House in mid-February and was sent to the White House for President Obama's signature.

But just as promised, President Obama vetoed the bill, which would ordinarily be the end of things.  (A veto override is exceedingly rare; it's apparently only happened 110 times out of more than 2,500 vetoes dating all the way back to George Washington.  And, yes, I'm citing to Wikipedia for these stats.)  But with the Republicans in control in both the House and the Senate, and with a least a handful of Democrats having voted in favor of the bill, the Senate sought to override the veto.  If successful, a veto override would have done just that, override the veto, allowing the bill to become a law.  (Is anyone else hearing the "I'm just a bill . . . " song in the background about now?  But I digress.)

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 62-37 to override the veto.  That sounds pretty good, right?  But a veto override vote requires 67 votes, meaning the override effort fell short.

So what happens now?  It depends on who you ask, and several plans remain in the works.  Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, a strong supporter of the pipeline, vows to fight on.  He is quoted in a March 4 New York Times article as saying:

Another option is to attach this legislation to other energy, infrastructure or appropriations legislation that the president won’t want to veto. The will of the American people and Congress is clear.

And that other bill is rumored to be a highway infrastructure bill (which, presumably, President Obama wants).  Others, not surprisingly, have different views of the subject.  California Senator Barbara Boxer was quoted as saying last week that the very idea of a veto override attempt was a "ludicrous idea," while at the same time rejecting the idea that the bill could be revived by attaching it to the highway legislation.  According to a March 4 Fox News story, Senator Boxer did not mince words as she summed up her view:

"First, they hold the homeland security funding bill hostage to immigration, Boxer said. Now they want to hold the highway bill hostage to big polluting Canadian special interests.

Suffice it to say that we likely have not heard the end of this battle.

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  • Rick E. Rayl

    Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues.  His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes.  His public ...

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