WASHINGTON – With a White House spokesman confirming that President Obama will veto the Keystone pipeline just passed by the Senate and House, members of the Minnesota congressional delegation could get a chance to vote on a motion to override that veto in the next few weeks.
Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, all Democrats who voted against the Keystone bill, say they will vote against overriding the president’s veto.
Republican Reps. Tom Emmer, John Kline and Erik Paulsen will vote to override. So will Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who voted for pipeline approval. Fellow Minnesota House Democrats Rick Nolan and Tim Walz joined Peterson in voting for the pipeline because of increased oil train traffic in Minnesota if the pipeline is not built.
Nolan declined to say whether he would vote to override a Keystone veto.
Walz did not respond to a Star Tribune request for comment.
Even though Republicans control the Senate and House, few experts believe Keystone supporters can rally the two-thirds’ majorities needed in both chambers to undo Obama’s veto.
The president has “lots of leverage,” said Brookings Institution scholar Tom Mann, one of the nation’s leading experts on Congress. “Enough Democratic votes exist to sustain the veto.”
What’s left is for Republican leaders in both chambers to decide if they want to lose and play what Mann calls “another GOP blame game.”
Historically, vetoes have been very hard to overturn with fewer than 10 percent of override efforts successful. The Keystone veto will be the first of what many experts think will be a bumper crop in Obama’s final two years in office.
The main reason for Republicans to hold veto override votes on Keystone, immigration reform and other hot-button issues is “to set up a case for abuse of power” by a Democratic White House, said Dean Lacy, a Dartmouth College professor specializing in presidential politics.
Another strategy to gain Keystone approval would be to accept the veto, then try to find future must-pass legislation and attach the pipeline to it.
While Minnesotans could face oil trains carrying Canadian tar sands crude without Keystone, “the policy value” of the pipeline in terms of job creation and environmental safety “is bordering on the trivial,” Lacy explained. “But the political value is significant.”
Each Keystone vote, said Lacy, “cut members of Congress into an environmentalist camp or a big business camp when no one wants to be in either.”