US House of Representatives votes for Keystone XL pipeline construction

The US House of Representatives on Friday voted to approve TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline, a move that ran counter to president Barack Obama's  threat to veto the measure, The New York Times reported.

The House's 266-153 vote did not come up to the two-thirds required to override Obama's veto however, all but one Republican voted for the measure, with 28 Democrats breaking ranks to vote with the Republicans.

The passage sent the matter to the Senate, where majority leader Mitch McConnell had said he was confident the new Republican majority had enough votes to pass a bill and send it to Obama.

Republicans seized on a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling today, clearing the pipeline's route in that state, arguing that Obama had run ''out of excuses'' for delaying a decision on whether to authorise the pipeline, first proposed in 2008.

According to McConnell of Kentucky, if the ruling today was still not enough to move the president to approve the project, Congress would force that decision.

According to Democrats in both chambers, there were enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of the legislation, and called the Republicans' continued pressure on this issue a distraction.

Meanwhile, reported that the six-year congressional obsession over the oil pipeline was nearing a climax. It had become the nation's biggest battle over jobs and the environment, and even though changes in global energy markets had lessened the importance of the pipeline, it still had political significance.

Congress had elevated Keystone XL to the first item on its agenda this year following the Republican takeover of the Senate. The Senate is expected to join the House soon in passing a bill to authorise construction of the pipeline, but Obama had said he would veto.

Republicans are keen to seize the opportunity to show that they could lead regardless of the president, even as congressional Democrats who are opposed to the project view it as a chance to demonstrate their unity and ability to coalesce as an effective opposition party.

Meanwhile, Republican Michigan representative Justin Amash, who voted against the bill said he supported Keystone, but opposed any bill to benefit a single company - in this case, TransCanada Corp, the Canadian firm that proposed to construct the pipeline.