The House of Representatives voted this afternoon to overwhelmingly approve another 90-day extension of the highway bill, enabling the divided Congress to move forward on negotiations on a long-term agreement.
The bipartisan vote passed easily by a count of 293-127, with 69 Democrats joining the Republican majority in support of the measure, known formally as H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012. Just 14 Republicans opposed the bill.
The bill also included a provision authored by Nebraska Republican Lee Terry to strip approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline from the White House and compel the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve or disapprove the permit within 30 days.
The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, although the leadership crafted the bill without the intent of it ever reaching the president’s desk. After the vote, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed the president’s warning.
“The House is on record again in support of the Keystone XL energy pipeline – a project President Obama blocked, personally lobbied against, then tried to take credit for, and now says he’ll veto,” Boehner wrote in a statement following the bill’s passage. “There’s no telling where the president stands from one day to the next on Keystone, but he knows the pipeline has broad and bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. He knows it will create tens of thousands of new American jobs. And he knows that if he continues to stand in the way, the Canadian government will bypass the United States and ship their energy – and the jobs that come with it – to countries like China.”
It’s unclear how that rider will ultimately fare during conference negotiations, but Republicans added the provision to ensure it’d be a topic of negotiation at conference.
“Keystone is a critical part of our ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” Boehner added. “The higher energy prices go, the more we all pay for everything from gasoline to groceries, and it’s taking a real toll on families and small businesses. That’s why I hope President Obama and Senate Democrats will get moving and join the American people and Republicans in supporting this common-sense bill.”
Over the past month, Democrats have pressured Republicans to vote on the Senate’s two-year, $109 billion bill, which was approved in a bipartisan vote in the upper chamber March 14 and did not include any language about the pipeline.
Instead, Republican sources say the House will use the latest 90-day extension as a legislative vehicle to move the negotiations to a bipartisan, bicameral conference.
Today’s extension tacks on another 90 days to the end of the current authorization, which runs out June 30.