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Obama will veto Keystone pipeline bill

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed that the president will not sign legislation to approve the controversial pipeline.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that President Obama will veto a bill to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which is expected to pass Congress next week.

Earnest said the White House’s position has not changed since it issued a veto threat of a similar bill in the previous Congress. “I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress, the president wouldn’t sign it either,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

"There’s an important principle at stake here," he added, citing the State Department’s administrative review procedure and the fact that a court in Nebraska has yet to rule on the pipeline’s route. "There’s a well established process that should not be undermined."

Earnest said he could make the announcement of the veto threat today because the text of the legislation has been made public since the last time he discussed it.

The White House spokesman also dismissed notions that vetoing the first bill passed by the new Congress would stymie future relations with the GOP-controlled Congress. Instead, he criticized Republicans for choosing as their first bill legislation they knew Obama opposes.

House Speaker John Boehner, who won election for a second term as House speaker Tuesday, quickly responded to the veto threat. "On a bipartisan basis, the American people overwhelmingly support building the Keystone XL pipeline. After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs," he said.  

"Fringe extremists in the president's party are the only ones who oppose Keystone, but the president has chosen to side with them instead of the American people and the government's own scientific evidence that this project is safe for the environment. This is simply another sign that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen to the American people or champion their priorities," Boehner added.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the veto threat would be "a shock to the American people who spoke loudly in November in favor of bipartisan accomplishments."

The pipeline, which would bring heavy tar sands oil from Canada across the middle of the United Sates to a port on the Gulf of Mexico, has become a top priority for environmentalists, who say the project will exacerbate climate change and create other pollution risks.

Republicans favor the pipeline, saying it will create jobs and reduce gas prices, and have made it a top priority now that they control both chambers of Congress.

A vote on a bill to approve the pipeline is expected in the House on Friday, while the Senate is likely to vote next week. Both chambers are expected to easily pass the bill. 

Despite the veto threat, the pipeline is not dead yet. The Obama administration could still approve it after it makes its way through the administrative review process.