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Senate Republicans on Monday took a major step towards approving the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing a key procedural hurdle that will likely set the stage for a partisan showdown with the White House.

The GOP-led Senate voted 63 to 32 to end debate on the controversial pipeline, likely ensuring the legislation’s final passage within the next few weeks.

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the stalled project that he says could have a harmful impact on the environment and will do little to help the American economy.

Republicans made the pipeline their top priority at the start of the new Congress and are anxious to force the president’s hand on what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calls a “jobs and infrastructure bill.”

The House approved Keystone for the tenth time last week, while Monday marked the first time the Senate considered the legislation with a Republican majority and enough Democratic support to ensure its passage.

A two-thirds majority in both chambers of Congress is necessary to override a presidential veto.


-- Andrew Rafferty and Frank Thorp V