Members from both parties criticized the measure’s motivation as the US House approved US Rep. Bill Cassidy’s (R-La.) bill to expedite federal approval of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline project. The measure passed by 252 to 161 votes as 31 Democrats joined Republicans in support of the action.
“It’s a bad bill whose time has come,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member who led the opposition before the Nov. 14 vote. “This is bad science and good politics. We’re trying to promote the candidacy of one of our members for the Senate, which appears ready to do the same for his opponent. That is, at least, a badly misplaced priority.”
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), meanwhile, said, “This body has sent eight bills on this matter to the Senate already which it refused to take up. Now, it miraculously is ready to consider this one as a jobs bill. Let’s be honest about this: The other body is interested now because it wants to defend the job of one of its members. The other party needs to look only what happened Nov. 4, when the issue wasn’t incumbency, but incompetence.”
Cassidy and US Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who face a Dec. 6 runoff for her seat, each presented bills that would transfer approval of Keystone XL’s crossborder permit from the White House on Nov. 12 (OGJ Online, Nov. 13, 2014). House Republican leaders quickly scheduled a vote on Cassidy’s measure for 2 days later.
“If there was ever House legislation which should not be difficult to get through the Senate, this is it,” Cassidy said before the vote. “The bill I introduced uses the language asked for by the Senate. We’re making it as easy as possible for them to do this…. America’s voters told us to start working together on Nov. 4. This is the perfect place to start.”
‘A regulatory earmark’
But Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) argued that the measure was harmful and unnecessary. “We don’t need this oil. We have our own, and we’re not using as much of it as expected,” he said. “This bill is a regulatory earmark and would waive important environmental and other requirements. The [US Department of State] is evaluating millions of comments about this project that this bill would have us disregard.”
Oil and gas trade associations immediately applauded the House for passing Cassidy’s bill. “The House today passed a job-creating infrastructure bill that aligns with the president’s own jobs plan, and the Senate will almost certainly pass an identical bill next week,” American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard said. “Five affirmative reviews from [DOS], and strong majority support among voters of every party, give the president a glide path to an easy yes on KXL.”
The Association of Oil Pipe Lines also welcomed congressional votes to authorize the project. “Congress realizes American consumers and workers have waited long enough to start receiving the benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline,” AOPL Pres. Andrew J. Black said.
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