Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is following through on his promise to make the Keystone XL pipeline extension “the first item up” when the incoming Senate convenes on Jan. 6.
As announced on Dec. 30, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the controversial project on Jan. 7, just one day after the incoming Congress is sworn in. The hearing, according to spokesman Robert Dillon, will help get a Keystone bill on the floor “as soon as possible.”
“The leader said that Keystone will be the first bill the Senate takes up and it will be open to amendments on the floor,” McConnell spokesman Michael Burmas said.
The Keystone project, designed to carry oil sands from Canada to the U.S. via the Gulf of Mexico, was originally proposed in 2008 and remains the subject of ongoing debate. Environmentalists and other opponents argue that the pipeline emits greenhouse gases that significantly contribute to climate change, while supporters say that the pipeline will create jobs and reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
At his year-end press conference on Dec. 19, President Barack Obama addressed the project.
“It would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf,” Obama said. “Sometimes the way this gets sold is, you know, ‘Let’s get this oil, and it’s going to come here,’ and the implication is that that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States. It’s not.”
While Obama has delayed making a decision on Keystone pending a review from the State Department, the House has voted “at least nine times” to approve it, according to U.S. News. A Senate vote, however, failed by one vote.
There will be enough votes to approve Keystone once Republicans take the Senate majority in the first session of 2015, but not to override a presidential veto.