Defying a White House veto threat, the House on Wednesday passed legislation that extends transportation program funding through September and mandates construction of a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
All but 14 Republicans, with support from 69 Democrats, voted 293-127 for legislation that falls far short of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) earlier plan to move a sweeping five-year, $260 billion package.
But Boehner’s retreat serves two crucial tactical and political purposes for the Speaker. It sets up talks with the Senate on the highway bill and keeps the Keystone pipeline — a centerpiece of GOP attacks on White House energy policy — front and center ahead of the November election.
Republican leaders hailed the bipartisan vote as a rebuke of President Obama. Two senior Democrat leaders, Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.) and John Larson (Conn.), approved the measure.
The wingers are sensing a win in the Senate too, possibly even a veto-proof one.
Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans' 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid's filibuster.
"We're right around the corner from actually passing it," says a well-informed Senate source. "Two-hundred-ninety-three votes in the House is a gigantic number. People want this thing."
People want the highway bill, not the pipeline. Byron York there completely fails to mention that the Keystone XL pipeline is tacked on to the Federal Highway bill, which is yet another example of why he's a hack working for the DC Examiner and not, you know, an actual news outlet or anything.
It turns out in an election year when jobs are the number one priority, voting against the highway bill is pretty much suicide for your average House member. There's a bit more leeway in the Senate, but even so, it's looking like as with the horrible JOBS Act (also passed with an overwhelming veto-proof margin) that the Senate is going to go along with anything that even remotely sounds like they're doing something and leaving President Obama to be attacked for anything that happens as a result.
So of course, I fully expect the Dems in Congress to cave here, put the President in an untenable position, and then having to listen to the Purity Police tell me that there's no difference between Obama and Satan again and why I'm a moron for voting at all.
This is a fight the Republicans are going to at least do some serious damage with. How much damage depends on how many Dems are going to leave the President at the tender mercies of the GOP. At this rate, you have to ask if the Dems aren't trying to lose on purpose so they can stay out of power.