The House on Wednesday approved a Republican bill aimed at keeping alive prospects for enacting an overhaul of federal transportation programs and continuing the flow of highway and transit aid to states.
The bill would also allow the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed. The pipeline, which would transport oil produced from Canadian tar sands to Port Arthur, Texas, was previously blocked by President Barack Obama. The White House has threatened to veto the GOP bill, which it says bypasses longstanding practices for the approval of cross-border pipelines. The veto statement noted that a final pipeline route has yet to be decided.
The bill, passed by a 293 to 127 vote, technically extends the government's authority to spend money from the federal Highway Trust Fund through Sept. 30. That authority now is due to expire on June 30. But the real intent of the measure is to provide a parliamentary rationale for formal negotiations with the Senate on a more comprehensive transportation plan. Both parties have made passage of a transportation bill their top job-creation priority for the year.
The Senate is unlikely to go along with a final bill that requires approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, but Republicans said it was appropriate to tie to transportation programs a project they believe will increase the amount of oil available to the U.S. market and lower gas prices.
"If anyone has not felt the pain at the pump, all they have to do is go to a local gas station," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said. "This pipeline has been studied to death."