Senate passes Keystone amendment

March 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) -- Forty-five Republicans and 17 Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted yes to a budget amendment that recommends the Keystone XL oil pipeline be approved.

The budget amendment was approved with a 62-37 vote, The Hill newspaper reported Saturday.

The vote was largely considered symbolic, as the Senate's budget is non-binding. The next step in the process is reconciliation with the House budget and considerable changes are expected.

Nevertheless, the vote "puts the Senate on record in support of the Keystone pipeline project. And that's just appropriate, said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

"The Department of State has done four environmental impact statements over the last five years -- four -- and said there are no significant environmental impacts. And it's time that we in the Senate stepped up with the American people," Hoeven said.

As it stands, approval for the pipeline also requires agreement from the White House, because the pipeline, designed to bring oil from western Canada to the United States crosses an international border.

Hoeven, who submitted the pipeline amendment, has also proposed a law that would cut the White House out of the approval process.

President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision by the end of the year. The argument for and against the pipeline include Republicans, siding with some unions and industry groups, who believe the pipeline will create jobs and environmentalists who see the pipeline as an ecological risk.

Obama has not committed himself one way or another, but he has said he believed that much of the oil passing through the pipeline would be used for export, rather than for increasing supplies in the United States, which would lower prices here.

He has also said that the number of jobs the pipeline creates has been exaggerated by those supporting the project.

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