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As we reported was likely, Congress’ passage of a bill to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline has proven to be symbolic. President Obama today vetoed the measure, an action more directed at protecting presidential authority than the environment.

The administration has long maintained that because the pipeline traverses the international border with Canada, approval rests with the executive branch not the Congress. A January 7 Statement of Administration Policy said such congressional action:

[S]eeks to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether cross border pipelines serve the national interest by authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline project prior to the completion of the Presidential Permitting process.

The New York Times reported today:

By saying no to the legislation, Mr. Obama retains the authority to make a final judgment on the pipeline on his own timeline. The White House has said the president would decide whether to allow the pipeline when all of the environmental and regulatory reviews are complete.

Said one tweet by, a prime opponent of the pipeline:

Today the President defended his right to make the final call on KXL. He can still approve, or reject it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a veto override vote by early March, but it is unlikely he has the necessary 2/3 majority.

Below is the full text of President Obama’s veto message:


I am returning herewith without my approval S. 1, the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.”  Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.

The Presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously.  But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people.  And because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.