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A sneak peek at the Keystone veto spin wars

Republicans are already hinting at how they will spin the veto expected from President Obama.
US President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 3, 2015. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 3, 2015.

The Republican-led House is expected to pass a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL pipeline this week, setting President Barack Obama up to use his veto power in what is expected to be the commander in chief’s first big run-in with the new Congress.

Already, Republicans are hinting at how they will spin the veto: The president is an obstructionist, job-killer who is going against the will of the American people. And of course, Democrats have their own take: The veto is morally just, environmentally sensitive, and will rally the liberal base and show Obama won’t govern like a lame duck who goes back on his word.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota — a sponsor of the Senate bill — told msnbc on Tuesday that Americans would be hard pressed “to see [the veto] as anything but a disregard for the will of the people,” pointing to a recent poll showing that 65% of registered voters back the pipeline, which would create an oil transport system from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Last month, 53 Republicans and nine Democrats passed the bill in the Senate. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said if the bill passes Congress, the president would veto it.

Hoeven added that even if the president does veto the legislation, “we will work to attach it to must-pass legislation that would be hard for him to veto. That could be an appropriations bill or an energy bill.”

And House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesperson said the GOPer “hopes the president will choose to sign this bipartisan jobs bill." Last fall, Boehner said Obama would be calling American voters “stupid” by issuing a veto.

Proponents of Keystone — mainly labor unions, oil companies, Republicans and a handful of moderate Democrats — argue the plan would create thousands of jobs and make the country less dependent on oil from the Middle East. But critics say the project would lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, would not bring in significant numbers of new jobs and would have no effect on U.S. gas prices.

Obama has said the decision should stay within the executive branch and wants the State Department to finish its ongoing review of the project. He has also questioned the number of new permanent jobs it would create.

Similarly, after the measure passed in the Senate, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said “Keystone would create only 35 permanent jobs — a drop in the bucket. A fried chicken franchise creates about as many jobs.” While Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said the legislation was a “special hug and special kiss to a foreign oil company.”

That’s the message Democrats will likely convey after the expected veto.

Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist, said “the progressive community is with the president on this” and GOPers would spin the veto “as a way to deflect from their own problems in trying to push Keystone."

Meanwhile, environmental groups like the Sierra Club are meeting with lawmakers to ensure the measure is overridden. Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, insisted a veto would present Obama as “a hero and as someone who lives up to his word and that he isn’t someone who just makes speeches but takes strong action to fight climate change.”