WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives voted Friday to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, setting up a final vote expected next week in the Senate.
Members voted 252-161, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans in passing the controversial bill, which has bipartisan support but faces stiff opposition from environmental groups.
The pipeline would extend an existing network that carries crude oil from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, passing through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region.
The legislation, which stalled for years on Capitol Hill, has finally come to a head as a proxy for the battle over Louisiana's Senate seat. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., are headed for a runoff, after Landrieu edged Cassidy in a three-way jungle primary but trails in head-to-head polls.
Landrieu, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has argued her seniority -- even in an upcoming Democratic minority -- has paid dividends for Louisiana's energy industry. Landrieu shepherded the bill through committee and got Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to agree to hold a vote, but the vote was scrapped after a deal to pass energy efficiency bills failed in the face of Republican opposition earlier this year.
Earlier this week, Landrieu secured a vote, planned for early next week. Not to be outdone, Cassidy pushed the House version of the legislation forward to the floor, where it passed a procedural hurdle Thursday before sailing through its final vote Friday.
But even should the bill pass the Senate, President Obama has not committed to signing it. In Myanmar Friday, Obama hedged, saying he would veto or delay signing the bill, so as not to "short-circuit" the federal environmental impact review.
"I've been clear in the past," he said. "My position hasn't changed that this is a process that is supposed to be followed."
Supporters of the pipeline say its construction and operation would create "thousands" of jobs, while critics contend it would cause irreparable environmental harm, but less than 100 permanent jobs.