The Republican-controlled Senate voted overwhelmingly to build the long-awaited Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday–and they brought along nine Democrats, as well.
While the vote passed 62-36, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) missed the vote, meaning that Republicans would be just four votes shy of the supermajority necessary to override President Obama’s veto.
Keystone XL has become a centerpiece of the Republican agenda for this congressional session. In her State of the Union response, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) singled out Keystone XL as a rationale for blasting President Obama’s intransigence:
President Obama has been delaying this bipartisan infrastructure project for years, even though many members of his party, unions, and a strong majority of Americans support it. … President Obama will soon have a decision to make: will he sign the bill or block good American jobs?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said that Keystone XL would lead the Republican list in the new session.
This move, then, marks a promise fulfilled by Republicans. It is also a public relations move designed to underscore both Republican willingness to pass popular legislation and their own inability to effectuate it, given President Obama’s veto power. That dual message will undoubtedly be reinforced in the debate over executive amnesty, where establishment Republicans seek to oppose President Obama’s agenda without actually stopping it.