House votes to approve Keystone pipeline, showdown looms in Senate

The House voted Friday to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, sending the bill to the Senate for a showdown vote next week that could -- for the first time -- put the legislation on President Obama's desk.

The measure passed Friday on a 252-161 vote, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans to approve it. An identical bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate on Tuesday.

The legislation has re-emerged after Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu began championing it, in a bid to not only help the energy industry but also her struggling runoff Senate bid. In response, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is running against Landrieu in the runoff, sponsored the House bill that was approved on Friday.

Though the Louisiana election battle is a driving force behind the latest Keystone push, the legislation nevertheless could land on Obama's desk if the Senate passes it next week. Senate supporters said they were confident they'd have the 60 votes needed for passage.

This would force Obama to either sign it -- defying his environmentalist supporters -- or veto it.

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    The pipeline has been stalled by environmental reviews, objections to its route and politics for six years. The White House has threatened to veto similar attempts to move the pipeline forward.

    In response to the latest efforts, Obama, traveling in Burma on Friday, indicated he still wants to let a review process run its course.

    "I don't think we should short-circuit that process," he said. He said the administration thinks the project should be judged on the basis of whether it accelerates climate change, and pushed back on claims that it would be a "massive jobs bill."

    After Friday's vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it was time for the president to listen to the American people, especially after the Republican gains in the midterm elections, and sign the bill.

    "Thousands more Americans would be working today if President Obama had put their priorities ahead of his political interests and approved the Keystone pipeline. Instead, he continues to block the project, and the new jobs, lower costs, and increased energy security it would provide," he said in a statement. "The president doesn't have any more elections to win, and he has no other excuse for standing in the way. It's time he start listening to the vast majority of Americans who support Keystone and help get more people back to work."

    The 1,179-mile project is proposed to go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

    Advocates say it will create thousands of jobs and aid energy security, but environmentalists warn of possible spills and say the pipeline will expedite development of some of the dirtiest oil available.

    The State Department said in a Jan. 31 report the project would not significantly boost carbon emissions because the oil was likely to find its way to market by other means. It added that transporting it by rail or truck would cause greater environmental problems than if the Keystone XL pipeline were built.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.