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Congress Can Constitutionally Skirt Obama On Keystone

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Jul 23, 2007
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The good ole USA
Congress Can Constitutionally Skirt Obama On Keystone

Posted 01/24/2012 06:04 PM ET

Energy: The president might think that he's killed the Keystone XL pipeline, at least for as long as he's in office. But he could be very wrong.

President Obama was able to snuff out the project and with it a vast supply of needed crude because the executive office has traditionally handled permits on cross-border facilities, which the pipeline is considered since it would originate in Canada.

But that doesn't mean that's the only way for the pipeline to be approved. Attorneys at the Congressional Research Service have determined that lawmakers can pass a bill requiring a permit for the pipeline — which would have carried crude that will now instead be shipped by a rail line owned by Warren Buffett, one of Obama's supporters.

Their review "suggests that legislation related to cross-border facility permitting is unlikely to raise significant constitutional questions, despite the fact that such permits have traditionally been handled by the executive branch alone pursuant to its constitutional 'foreign affairs' authority."

Passing legislation is an option that Republicans are already looking at.

According to USA Today, Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., has written a bill that would remove the president's authority to approve the pipeline and give it instead to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

With a 50-vote majority in the House, the GOP should be able to get Terry's bill, or one similar to it, passed.

The Senate, however, still in Democratic hands, poses a much bigger hurdle,
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Yet it might be one that could be overcome. It's not inconceivable that labor unions, which stand to benefit from jobs created by both the construction and operations of the pipeline, will pressure Senate Democrats to vote for the measure.

One union, the Laborers' International Union of North America, has already left the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups. The Hill reports that LIUNA quit, "citing a disagreement with the group's members over the Keystone XL pipeline." If the union-environmentalists partnership is indeed headed for a larger crack-up, Senate Democrats could be in line to get a hard push from a constituency that's long held great power over their party.

But even if such a bill passed Congress, it must gain enough support to override the inevitable White House veto. That might be a hill too high and steep to overcome.

If nothing else, though, passing permit legislation in the House would give Republicans a strong issue to campaign with this fall against congressional Democrats, particularly incumbent senators running for re-election, as well as Obama.


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