House Republicans passed one of their top legislative priorities Friday - a bill to move forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline. While passage wasn't in question as the Republican-led House has now passed the measure ten times, it now heads to the new Republican-controlled Senate where for the first time the measure is likely to reach President Barack Obama's desk and face his veto pen.
The measure passed 266 - 153, with the support of all Republicans except one who voted "present" and 28 Democrats, which is not enough to override a presidential veto.
The previously scheduled vote comes just hours after the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out a suit by landowners in Nebraska who opposed the pipeline route through their land, giving pipeline advocates a victory and the state the ability to seize land for pipeline construction.
The uncertainty in Nebraska was a central reason President Barack Obama cited for delaying a decision and vetoing Congress' bill on the pipeline, which is being reviewed by the State Department because the project crosses the border into Canada.
“There continues to be an outstanding question about the route of the pipeline through one part of Nebraska, and that’s related to an ongoing legal matter in Nebraska. Once that is resolved, that should speed the completion of the evaluation of that project,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.
The White House says the court's decision doesn't change the White House's position and still plans to veto the legislation should it reach President Barack Obama's desk. The administration will wait for the State Department to finish its review before making a decision.
Proponents of the legislation in Congress quickly praised the Nebraska decision.
“The president has been hiding behind the Nebraska court case to block this critical jobs project,” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michingan, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said. “With that contrived roadblock cleared, the White House is now out of excuses and out of time.”
The issue has become highly politicized. House Republicans say that the pipeline, which would originate in the tar sands of Alberta Canada and transport crude oil through the Midwest to oil refineries in Texas, would help the economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs and reduce dependence on Middle East oil. It has become a symbolic measure of disapproval of President Obama's energy policies for Republicans, especially considering the majority of the pipeline has already been completed.
Environmentalists are staunchly opposed to the project, noting that tar sand oil is the dirtiest saying spills could damage the country’s water supply as it would cross major rivers as well as ecosystems. They also say it would increase the use of fossil fuels.
The Senate is expected to take up the measure at the end of January.
NBC's Frank Thorp V contributed to this report.