As Congress Closes Curtain on One Funding Crisis, It Sets Stage for the Next

CAPITOL HILL — The U.S. Senate failed to override President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday, missing the two-thirds threshold by 5 votes in a 62-37 vote. It was the first time the U.S. Senate voted to override a veto from Obama.

Republican lawmakers are still determined to pass Keystone in 2015. However, on its own, there are not many avenues for success, which means it will need to be attached to a must-pass bill to have a fighting chance, and supporters have already decided what bill they will attach it to.

“This is coming back in the form an infrastructure bill, a road bill that we are all voting for,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one of eight Democrats who voted against Obama on Wednesday.

According to The Hill, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who wrote the Keystone bill, said the legislation will likely be attached to a long-term infrastructure and transportation funding bill. Congress faces another funding deadline on May 31, when the federal Highway Trust Fund will go bankrupt if congressional action is not taken.

“Keystone supporters are optimistic that Obama won’t veto a six-year highway bill if it includes Keystone, despite vows by the president to veto any attempt to circumvent the federal review process of the pipeline,” The Hill reports.

On Tuesday, the House approved a “clean,” nine-month DHS funding bill for the president to sign after partisan theatrics forced Congress to pass a one-week extension to avoid a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. Just one day after ending one funding “crisis,” several members of Congress are ready to manufacture the next.

Just one day after ending one funding 'crisis,' several members of Congress are ready to manufacture the next.
Keystone, much like immigration and health care reform, is an important issue for many Republicans in Congress because approving the project was a campaign promise, much like strengthening border security along the U.S.-Mexico border, preventing policies interpreted as amnesty, and repealing Obamacare.

These campaign promises to the party’s base voters are so important that Congress shutdown the government for two weeks in 2013 over health care reform, almost shutdown the Department of Homeland Security on Friday over immigration policy, and may end up playing chicken with an important issue like infrastructure funding to pass Keystone XL.

As previously reported on IVN, several experts agree that the U.S. does not need nor would really benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline. Lawmakers have severally inflated the projected jobs numbers, the project will benefit Canada more than it will America, and regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built, exports from the oil sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico are expected to double in the next year — all that oil going to other countries, not the U.S.

What experts do say America needs, however, is a greater focus on its infrastructure, and not just crumbling roads and highways, but poorly inspected dams, bridges in danger of collapsing, poor drinking water infrastructure, and much more.

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a cumulative D+ grade point average. In the same year, the AP reported that thousands of bridges in the U.S. are at risk of freak collapse, meaning the slightest accident or mistake could result in catastrophe.

On Sunday, John Oliver took up the issue on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, revealing some startling information about the state of America’s infrastructure and it got people’s attention. As Oliver acknowledges from the beginning, it is not a “sexy” topic, but it is incredibly important.

The United States would benefit more from improving its infrastructure than it would investing in the Keystone XL pipeline. Not only is it about public safety, but investing in the nation’s infrastructure would create jobs and would benefit the economy in a way Keystone never could.

Yet lawmakers are willing to use the fate of the Highway Trust Fund as leverage to score a few political points because they are worried about the possibility of being primaried out in the next election. American lives are at risk, but some members of Congress are more concerned about holding on to power.

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Photo Source: AP