Reid maintains opposition to Keystone XL legislation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday he would continue to oppose legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline because some of the oil that comes through from Canada could leave the U.S.

Republicans in both chambers have mounted a campaign to get Keystone XL approved with legislation that could be wrapped into other bills. House leaders have said they could tack a Keystone XL provision onto a bill that extends the payroll tax break for the year or another bill that reauthorizes surface-transportation programs.

Reid’s support is crucial because of control he exerts over what legislation the Senate takes up, though the GOP would also have to get past President Obama’s veto pen. Reid didn’t close the door on having a Keystone XL provision that specifies the pipeline’s oil would have to stay in the United States.

“If they want to have Keystone, I’ll take a look at it if the oil is not sold to other countries,” Reid said. “But until that’s the case, I think I and most Democrats feel the same way.”

Republicans are mounting renewed legislative efforts in response to the Obama administration’s denial of a permit on Jan. 18 for the project. Previously Republicans inserted the Feb. 21 decision deadline for Keystone XL into December’s two-month payroll tax cut extension law.

The administration has said the deadline didn’t provide enough time to complete a crucial environmental review. TransCanada Corp. says it will accept Obama’s invitation to reapply for a permit for the 1,700-mile oil-sands crude pipeline from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

Two Republican proposals that would approve Keystone XL currently await in the House. One from Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., would transfer State Department authority on the border-crossing pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would have 30 days to approve it or it would be deemed approved. Legislation from Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, would immediately approve the pipeline.

A group of 44 senators led by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and including 42 other Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have introduced legislation to approve the pipeline using Congress’ powers under the commerce clause of the Constitution.

“The president was an obstacle obviously to the first time we tried,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a cosponsor of Hoeven’s legislation, told reporters.