By a vote of 17-9 -- two Democrats crossed party lines -- the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power advanced legislation that would make it so pipeline company TransCanada wouldn't need approval from the State Department to build the cross-border pipeline.
"The goal of North American energy self-sufficiency is within reach but America can't reach its potential so long as Washington continues to stand in the way," subcommittee Chairman Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said.
Full committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., in March said an act of Congress was needed to get the pipeline approved. A full vote is expected this week.
The State Department this week hosts a meeting in Nebraska to vet public comments submitted on its draft review of the pipeline. Pipeline opponent Bold Nebraska began circulating a petition last week that calls on U.S. President Barack Obama to deny TransCanada's permit.
Opponents of the project say it would deliver oil through, not to, the United States and present a significant environmental threat. Supporters say the project would create more jobs and ensure energy independence.