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Jan 13, 2015 3:52 AM

Senate Democrats look to tweak bill on Keystone XL pipeline

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Democrats plan to use Senate consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to get Republicans on the record about climate change and to resurrect parts of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill doomed by pipeline politics last year.

But Republicans readied additions of their own, such as lifting a ban on crude oil exports.

Other possible tweaks could attempt to ban exports of oil sent through the pipeline or force the pipeline's builders to use American-made steel.

Full-blown debate on the bill was expected to continue Tuesday after the Senate agreed 63-32 Monday to begin deliberating the measure.

Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead Republican sponsor of the measure, said before the vote that the additions will "help us build the right kind of energy plan for our country."

"This is an opportunity for all the members of this body to come forward," he said.

The 1,179-mile pipeline would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.

The bipartisan 63-32 vote was 3 more than the 60 required, and well above the level the highly controversial measure ever gained in recent years when Democrats controlled the Senate. But Republicans will need to secure more Democratic support to override a veto, as has been repeatedly threatened by the White House.

The measure has sparked intense debate over the Canada-to-Texas pipeline's potential impact on employment and the environment. While the project was proposed six years ago, the White House opposes the legislation as long as the administration is still conducting its formal review.

But with more than enough votes at their command, Republican and Democratic supporters said they hoped the legislation could win final approval and be sent to the White House by the end of next week.

"President Obama has every reason to sign the jobs and infrastructure bill that we will pass," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He noted that the Nebraska Supreme Court had recently rejected a legal challenge brought by opponents, an obstacle the White House had cited.

But Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said, "I'm going to oppose the Keystone pipeline because tar sands oil is going backwards, not forwards."

If Obama follows through on a veto, it will become the first of what are expected to be numerous clashes with the Republican majorities now in control of both houses of Congress.


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