By COREY BOLES
The US Senate on Thursday defeated an attempt by Republican
lawmakers to grant congressional approval for the construction
of a new oil pipeline, after the White House confirmed that
President Barack Obama personally called senators to persuade
them to reject it.
The Senate voted 56 to 42 in favor of granting congressional
approval of the so-called Keystone XL pipeline project, four votes short of the 60
required for the measure's passage.
Republican lawmakers were joined by 11 Democrats in voting for
granting the approval.
Republicans were trying to override the objections of the
Obama administration to the construction of the pipeline.
Obama had a role in corralling Democrats to reject the
Republican proposal for Keystone, as the White House said he
called lawmakers to convince them it was "irresponsible."
The Republican proposal would have cleared the way for construction of the pipeline to
The Republican plan is "irresponsible because it .. tries to
legislate the approval of a pipeline for which there is not
even a route," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said
Carney wouldn't say which lawmakers the president
The president rejected TransCanada Corp.'s application for
the pipeline construction in January, but said the company could reapply once it changed its proposed
route to address environmental concerns.
The pipeline would run from the oil sands in Alberta,
Canada, through the US to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
month, the administration granted approval to the construction of the southern portion of the pipeline.
TransCanada said it is likely to submit a new application for
the rest of the route.
The Republican measure would have circumvented this process
and allow construction to begin immediately.
Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) led the charge for Republicans
on the matter.
"My amendment provides that the Keystone pipeline project will move forward,
authorized by Congress," he said on the Senate floor before the
vote, the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to force
the administration's hand on the issue.
It was one of a number of amendment votes on a wider
transportation bill. Like the Keystone vote, many of the votes
on Thursday afternoon were unrelated to the underlying
The legislation would extend for two years the federal
funding formula for road, bridge and other transportation
public works construction and repairs projects.
Some version of the legislation must be passed before the
end of March when a temporary funding measure expires.
The Senate also defeated an alternative pipeline measure
offered up by Senate Democrats. It would have dictated that
none of the oil or natural
gas that travels along the pipeline could be exported from
the US, and that 100% of the building materials used in its construction are sourced from US
That amendment was essentially a poison pill designed to ensure
the defeat of the Republican amendment.
Lawmakers also defeated an attempt by Republicans to delay
Environmental Protection Agency rules that will require large
industrial firms to install greater pollution controls on their
boilers and incinerators to reduce
mercury, soot and other toxic emissions.
The issue has become hotly contested as GOP lawmakers have
routinely held up it as an example of regulatory overreach by
the Obama administration.
Dow Jones Newswires