The House easily passed a bill on Friday authorizing construction of the Keystone pipeline, just hours after Nebraska's highest court tossed a lawsuit challenging the route -- increasing pressure on President Obama to approve the long-delayed project.
The House approved the bill on a 266-153 vote, with 28 Democrats joining majority Republicans in voting for it. The Senate is set to consider the legislation next week, and sponsors say it has more than enough support to pass.
But the White House is threatening to veto. And even though the Nebraska court case was one of the reasons the administration has been reluctant to act, the ruling earlier Friday did little to change the president's position.
Spokesman Eric Schultz made clear Obama still wants to wait for a State Department review process to "play out," though the department will review the court decision. He said regardless of the ruling, the House bill conflicts with presidential authority and the review process.
"If presented to the president, he will veto the bill," Schultz said.The ruling Friday was a split decision. Four judges on the seven-judge court agreed that the plaintiffs did have legal standing, but because the case raised a constitutional question, a super-majority of five judges was needed.
"The legislation must stand by default," the court said in the opinion.
The lawsuit challenged a 2012 state law that allowed the governor to empower Calgary-based TransCanada to force eastern Nebraska landowners to sell their property for the project. A lower court had sided with the landowners, who said that power resided with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman opposed TransCanada's original proposed route that crossed the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region, but he approved the project in 2012 after the company altered the pipeline's path to avoid the Sandhills. Heineman noted that the proposal was reviewed by the Department of Environmental Quality, which is part of his administration.