When the new Congress convenes next week, an old issue will be at the top of the agenda: the Keystone XL pipeline.
Republicans, who will now control both the House and Senate for the first time in eight years, are planning early action on the Affordable Care Act, jobs, and President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
With public disapproval of Washington in general running at an all-time high, according to Gallup, the party also will be working to prove it can govern effectively.
The first order of business, Senator McConnell (R) of Kentucky has said, is passing the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been under review for six years.
Republicans say the $8 billion project is a jobs creator whose passage is long overdue, while many Democrats have expressed concern the proposed Canada-to-Texas pipeline would pose a threat to the environment.
If built, the 1,200-mile pipeline would carry more than 800,000 barrels of Alberta oil sands from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries every day. A State Department report indicated construction would yield 42,100 direct and indirect jobs, with 35 permanent jobs when the pipeline is finished.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the Keystone bill on Jan. 7.
President Obama has not said whether he would veto the Keystone project, but his comments have grown increasingly skeptical. In December, Mr. Obama delivered his most explicit criticism of the proposed pipeline.
“It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to US consumers, it’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to US consumers,” Obama said at his year-end press conference.
When brought for a Senate vote for the first time in November, the proposed pipeline failed by one vote.
But Republicans captured control of the Senate in November's mid-term elections, trouncing Democrats to add nine seats. The GOP will have 54-to-46 majority, meaning it will need six Democratic votes to hit the 60 required to avoid a filibuster on the issue.
Seven Democrats who have supported the Keystone bill are expected to vote with Republicans, giving the bill 61 votes, writes Laura Barron-Lopez for The Hill.
Keystone legislation has easily passed the House. There, Republicans will enjoy a commanding 246-to-188 majority when it convenes Jan. 6. (There will be one vacancy: New York Republican Michael Grimm announced this week that he plans to resign after pleading guilty to a tax evasion charge.)
So, it appears likely a pipeline bill will be heading for Obama’s desk in the coming weeks. What he chooses to do with it after that remains a question.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.