President Barack Obama, exercising his veto power for the first time in five years, rejected on Tuesday a measure green-lighting the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
Obama’s signature denying the Keystone bill kicks off what’s expected to be a flurry of vetoes on measures that Republicans will send to the White House now they control both chambers of Congress. The President has already threatened to reject 13 GOP-sponsored pieces of legislation, including bills rolling back the Affordable Care Act and reversing his executive action on immigration.
On Keystone, it appears unlikely GOP lawmakers will be able to reverse Obama’s veto. The threshold for overriding a President’s veto is a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress.
After the President’s official veto message was received in the Senate at about 3:30 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the veto override will happen no later than next Tuesday.
The measure, which passed the Republican controlled House and Senate earlier this month, would have bypassed an administration review of the oil pipeline project, which if completed would transport oil from tar sands in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Advocates — including Republican leaders in Congress and the government of Canada — say Keystone would create American jobs, but opponents argue the potential environmental risks aren’t worth it.
The White House said they opposed the GOP-bill because it usurped the President’s authority to approve or deny the creation of the pipeline, which was first proposed more than six years ago. Since then, the project has been the subject of administration review, including the current State Department analysis that’s been underway for years.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday it was still a possibility that Obama approves the pipeline once the State Department review is complete, but didn’t reveal a time line for that scenario.
Obama himself has downplayed the economic benefits of the pipeline, saying America’s energy strategy should encompass more than a single project.
“Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” he said during January’s State of the Union address.
Republicans on Tuesday said the expected veto sets a sour tone for any further cooperation.
“This White House refuses to listen and look for common ground. It’s the same kind of top-down, tone-deaf leadership we’ve come to expect and we were elected to stop,” House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in a USA Today op-ed.