Getting Closer To D-Day for Keystone XL Pipeline

So in threatening to veto legislation aimed at forcing approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline earlier this week, the White House indicated that one factor was a pending appeal before the Nebraska Supreme Court of a suit alleging the state law setting up a regulatory regimen for the project was unconstitutional. More technically, the legal issue has been a bar to a final State Department review of Keystone.

Well, today the Nebraska Supremes cleared away that obstacle, albeit by failing to make a decision as a majority but not the requisite supermajority declared the law unconstitutional.

I don’t know if this was specifically planned, but at virtually the same time as the court decision the U.S. House re-passed the bill forcing approval of the pipeline by a 266-153 margin, well short of the two-thirds that would be needed to override a presidential veto. A similar Senate bill succumbed to a filibuster in December, but with the changes in the Senate’s composition, the bill will almost certainly pass now–though as in the House, probably without enough votes to survive a veto.

Nobody expects the State Department to immediately complete its review, so there’s no reason to think the court decision alone would make the White House rescind its veto threat. There is, however, always the chance of some deal in the Senate that would make approval contingent on future events.

The other dynamic, of course, is that both improving economic conditions and plunging oil prices have reduced some demand for the pipeline, though it remains one of the GOP’s few tangible “jobs” proposals.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.