The House easily passed a bill on Friday authorizing construction of the Keystone pipeline, just hours after Nebraska's highest court tossed a lawsuit challenging the route -- increasing pressure on President Obama to approve the long-delayed project.
The House approved the bill on a 266-153 vote, with 28 Democrats joining majority Republicans in voting for it. The Senate is set to consider the legislation next week, and sponsors say it has more than enough support to pass.
But the White House is threatening to veto. And even though the Nebraska court case was one of the reasons the administration has been reluctant to act, the ruling earlier Friday did little to change the president's position.
Spokesman Eric Schultz made clear Obama still wants to wait for a State Department review process to "play out," though the department will review the court decision. He said regardless of the ruling, the House bill conflicts with presidential authority and the review process.
"If presented to the president, he will veto the bill," Schultz said.
The developments Friday set Congress on a collision course with the White House in a matter of days, with pipeline supporters only more energized thanks to the Nebraska ruling.
"President Obama is out of excuses for deciding whether or not to allow thousands of Americans to get back to work," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, urging Obama to reverse his veto threat in light of the court decision.
House Speaker John Boehner made the same appeal, saying "a presidential veto would put [Obama's] own political interests ahead of the needs and priorities of the American people."
Earlier, in a victory for pipeline backers, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that three landowners who sued failed to show they had legal standing to bring their case.
The closely watched Nebraska Supreme Court decision could remove a major roadblock for the $7 billion cross-continental project, which would run from Canada to Texas. Obama has long resisted moving forward on the project, citing both the Nebraska lawsuit and a State Department review process.
While the White House made clear Friday they would continue to wait for the State Department review, the Nebraska court decision left pro-pipeline lawmakers quickly losing patience with the administration given the years-long delay.
"The president has been hiding behind the Nebraska court case to block this critical jobs project. With that contrived roadblock cleared, the White House is now out of excuses, and out of time," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said.
Industry groups and the Canadian government also cast the decision as an opening for the State Department and the president to move forward.
The ruling Friday was a split decision. Four judges on the seven-judge court agreed that the plaintiffs did have legal standing, but because the case raised a constitutional question, a super-majority of five judges was needed.
"The legislation must stand by default," the court said in the opinion.
The lawsuit challenged a 2012 state law that allowed the governor to empower Calgary-based TransCanada to force eastern Nebraska landowners to sell their property for the project. A lower court had sided with the landowners, who said that power resided with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.
The proposed 1,179-mile pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma along the way.
The pipeline needs presidential approval because it would cross the U.S.-Canada border.
While the new GOP-controlled Congress has made approving the pipeline a first order of business, a presidential veto on their legislation would leave Republicans scrambling to either muster a bipartisan, two-thirds majority to override -- or take a different approach by attaching the Keystone measure to some other piece of legislation.
Senate sponsors made clear that, at this stage, they don't yet have a veto-proof majority. And on the House side, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi claimed her caucus could sustain a presidential veto. Indeed, the lawmakers voting for the Keystone bill in the House on Friday did not constitute a veto-proof majority.
The $5.4 billion project, which would move tar sands oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, was first proposed in 2008.
Environmentalists and other opponents argue that any leaks could contaminate water supplies, and that the project would increase air pollution around refineries and harm wildlife. But the GOP, oil industry and other backers say those fears are exaggerated, and that the pipeline would create jobs and ease American dependence on oil from the Middle East. They note a U.S. State Department report raised no major environmental objections.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman opposed TransCanada's original proposed route that crossed the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region, but he approved the project in 2012 after the company altered the pipeline's path to avoid the Sandhills. Heineman noted that the proposal was reviewed by the Department of Environmental Quality, which is part of his administration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.