This item has been updated.
The House easily passed a measure Friday authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, sending it on to the Senate where the issue is expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday.
Lawmakers voted 252 to 161 to approve the project. Thirty-one Democrats, including a handful who lost reelection last week, joined with all but one Republican who voted for the bill. Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), a renegade Republican who frequently bucks his party and top leaders, voted present.
For six years, the pipeline has been under review by the State Department, which has jurisdiction because the project crosses international borders. Democrats from energy-producing states have joined Republicans in calling for its approval. But the White House has said that President Obama will not formally weigh in until the end of an ongoing State Department review and hinted on Friday that he would veto legislation approving the project if it passes.
With Obama leaning against the project, the issue has divided Democrats, who are still reeling from elections last week that diminished their ranks on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Marc Veasey was among a bloc of Texas Democrats who voted for the project. He said in a statement that while he is conscious of environmental concerns with the project, "creating and sustaining good paying jobs should be our highest priority in Congress."
But other Democrats disagreed: "The negligible economic benefit from the Keystone XL Pipeline does not justify risking America's drinking water, farmlands and tribal grounds," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.).
The issue has become a flashpoint in the closely-watched, hotly contested Louisiana Senate runoff election that will pit Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Dec. 6. Cassidy, a four-term congressman, placed second to Landrieu on Election Day in a multi-candidate primary, but recent polling shows him with a comfortable lead.
After clearing the House on Friday, an identical bill is set for debate and a vote as early as Tuesday in the Senate after Landrieu forced leaders this week to permit an up-or-down vote. She spent several hours on Thursday controlling Senate floor debate on the bill.
The bill will require at least 60 senators in order to clear proceeding to a final vote.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who wrote the original bill authorizing construction that's been debated this week in the House and Senate, said Friday that his bill has at least 57 votes -- all 45 Republicans and at least 12 Democrats.
"To build the kind of energy plan we want for this country for energy security, we’ve got to have the infrastructure to go with it," Hoeven said in an interview. "We’ve got to be able to move that energy around the country. And to be able to move it around efficiently and safely, we’ve got to have pipelines -- as well as rail and trucks."
On Friday just off the House floor, Cassidy, Landrieu opponent, nearly choked up as he described his relief that Congress is on the verge of approving the project.
"If this is what it took for us to get Keystone XL voted on in the Senate, so be it," he said. "It’s a good thing – 40,000 families will have a better job, better wages, better benefits, with a ripple effect through the economy. It’s good."
Cassidy dismissed Obama's threats to veto the legislation or to not permit its construction after the State Department review, noting that once Republicans take full control of Congress next year, "there might be enough to override a veto."
"But if there’s one party that’s working hard for working families, it is the Republican Party," he added. "If there’s another party that thinks that climate change is a winning campaign issue and they’re going to double down on moving jobs to China, it’s their party."
By next Tuesday, Keystone -- and all that it represents from an environmental, economic and political perspective -- might no longer be an issue in the Senate race in Louisiana. But Cassidy said there are plenty of other things to discuss.
"I represent the people of Louisiana, she represents Barack Obama," he said -- using a line of attack that several GOP Senate candidates have used against their Democratic opponents this year.