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President Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

Keystone XL Map

As expected, President Obama has vetoed the bill that would have fast-tracked the Keystone XL pipeline:

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, rejecting an effort by Republicans and some Democrats to force his administration to let the highly contested energy project move forward.

By saying no to the legislation, Mr. Obama retains the authority to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. The White House has said the president would decide whether to allow the pipeline when all of the environmental and regulatory reviews are complete.

But the veto — his first rejection of major legislation as president — is also a demonstration of political strength directed at Republicans who now control both chambers of Congress. Mr. Obama is signaling that he will fight back against their agenda.

The Obama administration must decide whether to approve infrastructure projects like the Keystone pipeline, which cross a border with another country.

In his veto message to Congress, delivered with no fanfare on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Obama wrote that the legislation “attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”

Mr. Obama added that “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”

Environmental groups hailed the president’s veto. Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, praised Mr. Obama for keeping his word on vetoing the legislation and urged the president to reject the pipeline.

“The president has all the evidence he needs to reject Keystone XL now, and we are confident that he will,” Mr. Brune said.

Republicans denounced the veto, saying Mr. Obama gave in to the his environmental supporters. Republicans also said it would cost Americans much-needed jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio called the veto a “national embarrassment.”

In a statement, he said, “We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built – not even close.”

The bill now returns to the Congress, which will likely make at least some attempt to override the veto. In reality, though, it seems clear that there are insufficient votes in either the House or the Senate to get to the two-thirds majority required to do so. For one thing, the majority that passed the bill was well below that number in both the House and the Senate, which means that the GOP would somehow have to convince Democrats who already voted “No” on the bill once to change their vote and override Obama’s first veto in five years. That’s unlikely to happen. Indeed, it’s not even likely that all the Democrats in the House and the Senate who voted for the bill will be willing to vote to defy their party leader on a veto override.

None of this is a surprise, of course. The Obama Administration made it clear back in November when a Keystone XL bill was floated in the lame duck session of Congress that the President would veto any bill that made it to his desk, and there was no indication that the Administration’s position had changed on that issue in the ensuing months. Indeed, if anything, the Administration’s position on the matter only became stronger. At it’s base, the justification being offered from the veto is the assertion that approval of the pipeline is something that is properly left in the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch, but it’s also clear that there are political motives behind the veto as well. While some Democrats have come out in support of the pipeline, and indeed voted in favor of it in the House and Senate, the vast majority of the Democratic members of both houses of Congress voted against it thanks in no small part to the environmental lobbyists who have been on a crusade to defeat the pipeline for years now. Obviously, this veto, as well as the Administration’s rather obvious effort to
“slow walk” any decision on the pipeline, is being made at least in part to appease this segment of the Democratic constituency.

At this point, it seems unlikely that the pipeline will be approved before Barack Obama leaves office. Any Congressional action will be blocked by a Presidential veto, and the Executive Branch is likely to continue dragging its feet on the matter. As I’ve noted before, that’s unfortunate given the fact that the arguments in favor of the pipeline are far more convincing than those against it. Instead, it’s probable that Keystone will become an issue in the 2016 election just as it was in 2012. Given the fact that the pipeline has polled well in the past, it will be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton is as strident in opposition to the plan as President Obama has been.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    The President vetoes Republican efforts to steal property from US citizens and gift it to Foreign Corporations.
    What an abomination.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 6

  2. KM says:

    As I’ve noted before, that’s unfortunate given the fact that the arguments in favor of the pipeline are far more convincing than those against it.

    And what arguments would those be?

    Seriously, they want people on-board with this? Make some concessions to others concerns- a guaranteed % of the the final product for US market to help keep oil prices down would be nice. Legal framework for the inevitable spill so claims are paid promptly (less then a year) with no wiggle room would ease some concerns too. Right now, Canada gets all the rewards and we get all the risk. They want Keystone? Sweeten the deal for the public – that’s how negotiations work. Make it worth our while.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 4

  3. stonetools says:

    As I’ve noted before, that’s unfortunate given the fact that the arguments in favor of the pipeline are far more convincing than those against it.

    Well, I’ve noted that you have SAID the arguments were convincing, but I haven’t noticed any attempt to identify and advance such arguments. I await the presentation of such arguments.
    I would think a libertarian would have trouble with the idea of the government taking eminent domain over so much private property in order to clear the way for the pipeline, but then libertarians somehow never seem to raise such objections if raising such objections are bad for big business. Funny , that.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 2

  4. stonetools says:

    @KM:

    And what arguments would those be?

    I think Doug is keeping those arguments in the same box where he keeps those arguments showing that Obamacare would be a disaster for the country.

    Doug, you really ought to let those arguments come out and play sometime.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 3

  5. gVOR08 says:

    This kind of blurs the fact that it’s not a Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, it’s a bill to bypass the normal approval processes for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    I agree that the case for the pipeline is hardly strong. It’s not like there aren’t already pipelines and rail lines and they can’t ship the oil if they don’t build this shortcut pipeline. It’s really just a modest cost saving. It’s also a modest increase in existing environmental risks. Personally I see it as overall a negative, but not a big deal.

    That said, it is Mitch McConnell’s number one priority, presumably because a lot of his sponsors are energy companies. If he wants it that bad, I think he should get it. If he’s willing to pay for it. A national hike in the minimum wage would be nice.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 1

  6. stonetools says:

    @gVOR08:

    That said, it is Mitch McConnell’s number one priority, presumably because a lot of his sponsors are energy companies. If he wants it that bad, I think he should get it. If he’s willing to pay for it. A national hike in the minimum wage would be nice.

    I would take that deal. (Think Obama would too).Now that’s “reasonable bipartisan compromise” I could live with. I hope it happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @KM:

    a guaranteed % of the the final product for US market to help keep oil prices down would be nice.

    I’m not sure that this is really feasible. Oil (and indeed gasoline) are fungible commodities traded on several active exchanges (the two most prominent being, of course, New York and London).

    That said, from a Republican point of view this should be a non-starter. The Saudis have essentially declared war on the shale oil industry, and they’re winning. They can afford to play this pricing game a lot, lot longer than the shale oil folks can, and they have signaled, quite clearly, their intent to keep production humming even if oil drops below $20 per barrel (unlikely to ever drop that low, but the extent of their resolve is pretty evident here).

    They are picking a political fight over a pipeline intended to transport a product that is increasingly becoming unprofitable to produce in the first place.

    On the Street, we have a saying – “getting married to a trade”. It’s when you ride down a bad investment long after you should have bailed out. Republicans seem incapable of knowing when to drop a losing battle or of recognizing which battles are losing propositions in the first place.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 3

  8. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: I can’t find this series of articles where Doug claims Obamacare will be a disaster. Closest I get is criticism (well-deserved) of the launch, and James talking about why he doesn’t like Obamacare.

    Do you know something I don’t? (Many things, but in this case?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Slugger says:

    Obama has shortcomings, but as long as the oppo is no better than McConnell and Boehner he is on track for being added to Mt. Rushmore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  10. James Pearce says:

    So I guess if we want the Keystone pipeline, we’ll need to do more than elect Republicans to Congress……

    Speaking of, have they funded DHS yet?

    (It’s no secret I oppose much of the GOP agenda, but this is what I expected from the new Republican majority. If Republicans of the 21st Century can be trusted on one thing, it’s a complete inability to accomplish their “to-do list,” served with a hot side of nonsense.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Slugger:

    I’d call them the Keystone Kops, but it would just be too blatantly opportunistic (and insulting to the real Keystone Kops).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  12. C. Clavin says:

    6 years…3 vetoes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  13. Modulo Myself says:

    The pipeline is going to create a couple thousand temporary construction jobs and forty or fifty permanent. Outside of its symbolic value, there’s nothing there. If the GOP really wants it or believes that it will help, why don’t they make concessions? Like get serious about climate change? That’s not happening because oil has become just another fantasy zone. No one believes this will do anything for the economy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  14. Guarneri says:

    @stonetools:

    Heh. Interesting how the environmental and eminent domain concerns dissolve so easily. How does it feel to be a cheap whore?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  15. bill says:

    @Slugger: you’re against a pipeline on environmental grounds but for chipping away at a mountain for this guy?! the keystone pipeline will happen long before obama’s mug get’s anyways near rushmore’s honorees.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  16. Paul Hooson says:

    I support building the pipeline, but oppose the Republican efforts to build the project with imported steel and to export the oil to China. The pipeline should be built to support U.S. oil independence as a matter of national security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  17. Tony W says:

    @Guarneri: You argue for intransigence. That’s more of a right-wing quality. Liberals and moderates will negotiate in good faith.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  18. Tony W says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    The pipeline should be built to support U.S. oil independence as a matter of national security.

    Can you explain how Canadian oil supports U.S. oil independence? Are you aware that Canada is a foreign country?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  19. stonetools says:

    @Tillman:

    Well, Doug has said that he thinks Obamacare will be bad for the country. And I follow Doug on Twitter, where he often retweets posts from United Liberty, a libertarian website. And they do say Obamacare was and is a disaster. So there is that.
    I would like Doug to present a cogent argument as to why the thinks Obamacare would be bad for the country .He’ll be the first conservative to do so , although Megan McArdle has tried.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  20. stonetools says:

    @Guarneri:

    Heh. Interesting how the environmental and eminent domain concerns dissolve so easily. How does it feel to be a cheap whore?

    I don’t speak gibberish, so it’s hard for me to respond. Try again in English?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Slugger:
    If Obama was a Republican they would already be carving his face on Mt. Rushmore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  22. Mu says:

    Offer a bill that allows the pipeline but outlaws the use of eminent domain as it’s not in the US public interest. If they can buy their track, go ahead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  23. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    You really don’t understand much about the real world, business, and negotiating, do you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @stonetools: Thank you for the link. I hadn’t read any Megan McCardle in a long time. Now I remember why. Obamacare is bad because of three rules about economic externalities that Megan just now made up. Precious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  25. rodney dill says:

    @C. Clavin: Yes, without Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi being in positions of power, to carry his water for him, and prevent actual voting, Obama will actually have to go on record with vetoes.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 15

  26. KM says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Politics aside, a lot of the animosity for the pipeline stems from the idea that America’s taking one for Canada (eminent domain, environment risks, etc) and supposed to smile and ask Sir for some more. If a percentage of the product isn’t feasible, perhaps a percentage of the profits the same way Alaskans get cut an oil check? Love of land runs strong out West – taking it for a foreign country without any real recompense is chapping some serious ass in native Red State territories.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  27. Tony W says:

    @gVOR08: And she conveniently ignored the externality about divorcing medical care from employment which greatly empowers individuals and reduces corporate power. Wonder why a good libertarian would leave that one out?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  28. JKB says:

    So the pipeline will be a minor issue in the 2016 election. Probably not a problem unless the ME blows up and the oil shipments out of the Gulf are impacted. If that happens and the world price of oil shoots up, then….

    And yes, there are pipelines, with little available space. And there are Obama support Buffett’s train cars, slow, expensive, high risk of spill and much more adverse to the “global warming” as train engines burning diesel are far more polluting than induction motor pumps running on electricity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 12

  29. An Interested Party says:

    Yes, without Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi being in positions of power, to carry his water for him, and prevent actual voting, Obama will actually have to go on record with vetoes.

    And how is that any different from whenever the presidency and Congress have been held by the same political party…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  30. KM says:

    @JKB:

    Buffett’s train cars, slow, expensive, high risk of spill

    Funny you mention that. I agree with you on this point.

    I’d actually prefer a pipeline (crashes and derailments are off the table) – I’m not opposed to the concept, merely the execution of how this is being done in this case. I think that Keystone supporters are handling that aspect of it very very poorly; instead of attacking people as liberal, EPA-loving business-crushers, a better way would have been to thoughtfully present an analysis of the two methods, inherent dangers of both and let the data speak for itself. Go above and beyond – make this one as safe as possible, damn the cost.

    Instead, we see an almost irrational belief that anyone who cares about environment impact (including conservative farmers in the area) are embracing a liberal talking point to discredit the project so we shouldn’t talk about it. Asking for reassurance of the safety of the line is not unreasonable – considering the recent disasters, it would be downright irresponsible of the public to not do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  31. stonetools says:

    @Tony W:

    Hey, Megan argues that “We don’t force people to do things in order to produce positive externalities”. But of course, that’s what government does. We force people who don’t drive to pay for interstate highway construction because we as a country has determined that an interstate highway system is good for the country.
    Anyway, logical consistency isn’t a problem for McMegan. In this article, she argues for government intervention to force anti vaxxers to keep their children home because it’s good for the public that they don’t let their diseased children out in the community. But then let’s not turn this thread into an anti McMegan rant. The point is that she like Doug are really glibertarians,rather than hardcore libertarians. Their positions are really based on visceral dislike of government social safety programs and Big Gumint regulation in general, rather than kind of well thought out, consistent philosophy of libertarianism. Now that’s OK, since it actually makes them sane. But it is frustrating to argue against people who have not thought their supposed philosophy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  32. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    And there are Obama support Buffett’s train cars, slow, expensive, high risk of spill and much more adverse to the “global warming” as train engines burning diesel are far more polluting than induction motor pumps running on electricity.

    Just curious, where did you emigrate to the US from? I only ask because it’s fairly clear that English is not your native language.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  33. Modulo Myself says:

    @KM:

    There’s the idea that environmental regulations exist because of malice rather than experience. When it comes to employment, the idea is that everything worked perfectly until the government stepped in and issued regulations and then the cutbacks and lack of jobs came. It’s a childish belief that’s put conservatives into a corner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  34. Marco says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    US oil independence is mythical Unicorn and always will be. Our Harvard Lawyer made a good start explaining why.

    Regarding the pipeline, one has to ask why this route?

    There isn’t any excess refining capacity on the Texas Gulf coast to actually refine the oil and almost zero existing capacity that could refine this grade of petroleum without major refining plant modifications.

    So construction of the pipeline assumes new refining capacity would be developed to accommodate the new crude arriving. If that’s the case, why don’t the Canadians just build refining capacity on Canada’s west coast to handle the production. It’s a much straighter shot from there to China and Japan which is the best market for the product.

    The answer is obvious, but that doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t ask the Canadians the question.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  35. Marco says:

    Gulf Coast Refining Capacity

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Jack says:

    @Slugger:

    Obama has shortcomings, but as long as the oppo is no better than McConnell and Boehner he is on track for being added to Mt. Rushmore.

    I’m told that granite is not a dense enough material to properly portray Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 15

  37. humanoid.panda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    On the Street, we have a saying – “getting married to a trade”. It’s when you ride down a bad investment long after you should have bailed out. Republicans seem incapable of knowing when to drop a losing battle or of recognizing which battles are losing propositions in the first place

    But the trade here has nothing to do with economics, or the oil market. Keystone is a political talking point: the only item in their “jobs agenda” Republicans can point to which doesn’t consist of tax cuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  38. michael reynolds says:

    As I’ve confessed before, I don’t really care about the pipeline one way or the other.

    But I do love the on-going display of utter incompetence by Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell. After all the crap we’ve heard about Mr. Obama being “in over his head,” why is no one remarking on the fact that even after what, six years on the job, Boehner still can’t find his ass with both hands. Now McConnell’s proving he’s no better.

    But of course they’re old white men, so somehow “in over his head” and “unready” and so on never seem to be thrown at these two clowns. Does anyone even know if Boehner or McConnell love America? Because they were clearly raised differently than me. I mean, I’m actually competent at my job, so that must be upbringing, right?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  39. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: On DHS funding Boehner, McConnell, and Company are once again threatening to shoot the ni hostage while holding the gun to their own heads. They are indeed slow learners.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  40. KM says:

    @gVOR08 :

    once again threatening to shoot the ni hostage

    An excellent movie – too bad they think they’re Bart when they’re LePetomane at best and Mongo at worst.

    ……. but I would sell everything I own for a reenactment of the campfire scene starring the House and Bush’s baked beans :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  41. gVOR08 says:

    @KM: I was picturing Taggart and Lyle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. C. Clavin says:

    @rodney dill:
    Only apparently not often…due to Republican inability to accomplish much of anything at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  43. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: Ah, alright. I’ve resisted following political writer types on Twitter myself, so anything they say in that hellscape I miss. Thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. rodney dill says:

    @C. Clavin: We’ll see how much doesn’t get done in the next couple of years due to veto or threat of veto.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. grumpy realist says:

    @Modulo Myself: This is similar to the rants I’ve been seeing in the WSJ about how the mean FAA isn’t letting businesses have their free way with the usage of drones.

    People don’t seem to realize that every single FAA regulation out there was put together because an accident showed the reason for a rule. Every single rule of theirs is written in blood. So if the FAA is being cautious and conservative with drones, there’s a good reason. Do we really want to have a drone fly too near an airport, get sucked into an engine or otherwise destabilize a passenger jet with the resultant loss of life before we say “gee, maybe we should regulate these things a bit more…”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  46. Paul Hooson says:

    @Tony W: It is a pretty good guarantee if a severe international crisis, or God forbid, global war was to break out, that the U.S. and Canada would be ally nations, committed to the national defense of each other. I seriously doubt you ever again see a U.S. military invasion of Canada ever again such as during the Revolutionary War. The U.S. and Canada are complete military allies in the event of global war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. gVOR08 says:

    @Paul Hooson: And the War of 1812. They won.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  48. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Understood – it was allegorical.

    The political benefit to be mined from this fiasco drops by the day, with every point that NYMEX Light Sweet drops. The economics of shale oil have been destablized, and I suspect that the economics of this pipeline are looking less attractive by the day for Transcanada as well.

    Republicans, however, will keep riding a losing political right down to bottom. They’ve done it so many times now that I’ve come to expect it from them. They just don’t do political strategy very well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. Tony W says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    It is a pretty good guarantee if a severe international crisis, or God forbid, global war was to break out, that the U.S. and Canada would be ally nations

    Ah, global war – I thought we were talking about energy independence, my bad. As others have mentioned above – I have no problem with the pipeline as long as there is no eminent domain involved. If people want to sell their land to support the venture – have at it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  50. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: It was reported that the president said that the gas would all go to other countries and none to the US. Glenn Kessler, in a fact checker for the Washington Post, said the facts are otherwise and that the president is flat wrong. A half or less would go overseas. The rest would stay to be used in the US. It makes one wonder if someone is trying to get the price up. Just think of the possibilty: $1.OO gallon gas ! No more price gouging every time some Middle East potentate sneezes !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    You really do live in your own little world …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0