Defying GOP, Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill

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Defying GOP, Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline bill
Environmental activists protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in front of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (SCIS) where former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to speak at Syracuse Universitys S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications presentation of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Rapid City resident Hazel Bonner, center, looks on during the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission's public hearing at the state Capitol in Pierre, S.D., Monday, July 6, 2015. Bonner said in the hearing that she opposes the Keystone XL oil pipeline for herself, her children and her grandchildren. (AP Photo/James Nord)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a community forum on healthcare, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton broke her longstanding silence over the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, telling voters at a campaign stop in Iowa on Tuesday that she opposes the project assailed by environmentalists. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
WATERTOWN, SD- MAY 08: Shawnee Rae (age 8) was with a group of Native American activists from the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe who came to Watertown to line the Obama motorcade route to protest the Keystone XL pipeline project. By visiting South Dakota, President Obama has now visited all 50 states as president. The town of Watertown was very energized and enthusiastic about his visit. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest pauses during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. Earnest discussed funding of the Department of Homeland Security, Keystone XL Pipeline, and immigration reform, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act is seen after being signed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and which allows expansion of the pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries in the U.S., at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Though passage of the long-stalled legislation was a Republican campaign promise during the midterm elections last year, President Barack Obama has promised to veto the act. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Map shows the proposed Keystone pipeline route; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., left, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, stand together on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, during a ceremony before the signing of the bill authorizing expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Though both houses of Congress are now controlled by Republicans, Boehner and McConnell are at a standstill over provisions attached to a Homeland Security spending bill aimed at blocking President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, signs the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act during a ceremony in the Capitol's Rayburn Room, as from left, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., look on, February 13, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline hold signs during a demonstration across the street where U.S. President Barack Obama will attend an event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. U.S. Secretary John Kerry said Jan. 31 that the State Department will get results of a Keystone XL review in the next few days and that at some point in the future, he will make a recommendation on whether to approve the border-crossing pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline hold signs during a demonstration across the street where U.S. President Barack Obama will attend an event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. U.S. Secretary John Kerry said Jan. 31 that the State Department will get results of a Keystone XL review in the next few days and that at some point in the future, he will make a recommendation on whether to approve the border-crossing pipeline. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks about the Keystone XL pipeline during a news conference on January 29, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The US Senate passed a cloture vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline and is scheduled for full vote later today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks about the Keystone XL pipeline during a news conference on January 29, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. The US Senate passed a cloture vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline and is scheduled for full vote later today. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, from left, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Senator Edward 'Ed' Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, hold a news conference on Keystone XL pipeline amendments at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Senate Democratic leaders will push hard for full Senate vote on an amendment to Keystone XL pipeline legislation that puts all senators on record on their views about whether carbon emissions spark climate change, said Schumer. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. The Keystone XL pipeline has become a proxy for debates about global warming, jobs and energy security. Republicans who now control both houses of Congress have vowed to make approval of the pipeline one of their first pieces of legislation this year, a move the Obama administration opposes. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A copy of S.1, a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, is arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. The U.S. Senate on Monday, Jan. 12, advanced legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline with a procedural vote that sets up what may become one of the most extensive discussions of energy policy in the chamber in years. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, center, speaks during a news conference with Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, left, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, after a cloture vote on the Keystone XL pipeline bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. U.S. Senate Republicans are poised to push through a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, achieving a long sought policy objective that probably will be thwarted by a veto from President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, center, smiles as she speaks about Keystone XL, accompanied by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., left, sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles as he returns to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after passing a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The 62-36 vote advanced a top priority of the newly empowered GOP, which championed the legislation despite a presidential veto threat. The bill authorizes construction of the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline to carry oil primarily from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, takes the elevator after leaving the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, following the Keystone XL pipeline vote. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., turns to leave at the end of a news conference about Keystone XL, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican-controlled Senate moved Thursday toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defying a presidential veto threat and setting up the first of many expected battles with the White House over energy and the environment. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, right, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, after winning a critical procedural vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. The Republican-controlled Senate moved toward passage of a bipartisan bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, getting enough votes to overcome a filibuster, 62-35, but it remains five votes short of a veto-proof majority. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., takes the elevator after leaving the Senate chamber following the Keystone XL pipeline vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio strides from the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, after the Republican-controlled House passed legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The bill's passage now sets the stage for a showdown in the Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio strides from the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, after the Republican-controlled House passed legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The bill's passage now sets the stage for a showdown in the Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency.

Obama offered no indication of whether he'll eventually issue a permit for the pipeline, whose construction has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate about environmental policy and climate change. Instead, Obama sought to reassert his authority to make the decision himself, rebuffing GOP lawmakers who will control both the House and Senate for the remainder of the president's term.

"The presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously," Obama said in a brief notice delivered to the Senate. "But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people."

Obama vetoed the bill in private with no fanfare, in contrast to the televised ceremony Republican leaders staged earlier this month when they signed the bill and sent it to the president. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans were "not even close" to giving up the fight and derided the veto as a "national embarrassment."

The move sends the politically charged issue back to Congress, where Republicans haven't shown they can muster the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override Obama's veto. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, the bill's chief GOP sponsor, said Republicans are about four votes short in the Senate and need about 11 more in the House.

Although the veto is Obama's first since Republicans took control on Capitol Hill, it was not likely to be the last. GOP lawmakers are lining up legislation rolling back Obama's actions on health care, immigration and financial regulation that Obama has promised to similarly reject.

"He's looking at this as showing he still can be king of the hill, because we don't have the votes to override," Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a vocal opponent of Obama's climate change agenda, said in an interview. "If he vetoed this, he's going to veto many others that are out there."

First proposed more than six years ago, the Keystone XL pipeline project has sat in limbo ever since, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary. The pipeline would connect Canada's tar sands with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast that specialize in processing heavy crude oil.

Republicans and the energy industry say the $8 billion project would create jobs, spur growth and increase America's independence from Mideast energy sources. Democrats and environmental groups have sought to make the pipeline a poster child for the type of dirty energy sources they say are exacerbating global warming.

For his part, Obama says his administration is still weighing the pipeline's merits, and he has repeatedly threatened to veto any attempts by lawmakers to make the decision for him.

Environmental groups said they were confident Obama's veto was a prelude to a full rejection of the pipeline. But TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, said it "remains fully committed" to building. And the Canadian government said it was not a matter of if, but when.

The GOP-controlled House passed the bill earlier in February on a 270-152 vote, following weeks of debate and tweaks in the Senate to insert language stating that climate change is real and not a hoax. Republican leaders in Congress delayed sending the bill to the White House until they returned from a weeklong recess, ensuring they would be on hand to denounce the president when he vetoed the bill.

The veto forced Republicans, still reveling in their dramatic gains in the midterm elections, to confront the limitations of being unable to turn their ideas into law without the president's consent - despite the fact they now control both chambers of Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would start the process to try to override Obama's veto by March 3. Republicans were also considering inserting Keystone into other critical legislation dealing with energy, spending or infrastructure that Obama would be less likely to veto, said Hoeven.

Obama last wielded his veto power in October 2010, nixing a relatively mundane bill dealing with recognition of documents notarized out of state. With the Keystone bill, Obama's veto count stands at just three - far fewer than most of his predecessors. Yet his veto threats have been piling up rapidly since Republicans took full control of Congress, numbering more than a dozen so far this year.

The president has said he won't approve Keystone if it's found to significantly increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. A State Department analysis found that the tar sands would be developed one way or another, meaning construction of the pipeline wouldn't necessarily affect emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month called for that analysis to be revisited, arguing that a drop in oil prices may have altered the equation.

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