Senate Panel Advances Keystone Bill, Defying Obama Veto Threat

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg News/TNS) -

The Senate energy committee advanced legislation Thursday forcing approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a confrontation with President Barack Obama who has signaled he’ll veto the measure.

Republican leaders who now control both houses of Congress plan to make the bill among the first to be passed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Thursday that the full Senate will take up the Keystone bill early next week.

“The world is watching the United States to see if we are ready to lead as a global energy superpower,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican and chairman of the committee. “I think we’re ready to send this signal.”

The Canadian government and oil producers have lobbied aggressively for approval of the project proposed by TransCanada Corp. Environmentalists have used the project to galvanize support for action on climate change.

The Senate measure, which would bypass an administration review, was approved by the committee’s 12 Republicans who were joined by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a co-sponsor. Nine Democrats were opposed. In the full Senate, at least five other Democrats have said they back the legislation, giving the measure enough votes to pass. Supporters are still short of the 67 Senate votes to override the promised veto.

The Republican-led House is set to vote on a similar bill Friday.