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McConnell: Optimistic we'll pass Keystone
00:53 - Source: CNN

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Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Keystone XL pipeline will be first vote

The Democratic-led Senate only held one vote on the project, which fell just short of passage

Washington CNN  — 

The Republican-led Senate plans to force a showdown with President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL pipeline as soon as new members take office in January.

Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said a measure authorizing construction of the 1,179-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline will be the first bill he’ll schedule for a vote.

“People want jobs. And this project will create well-paying, high-wage jobs for our people and it certainly does enjoy a lot of bipartisan support,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

If passed, it would force Obama to decide whether to veto what could be the first bill the new Congress sends to his desk. The President has said he wants the decision left in the hands of the State Department, which is six years into a review of the project and currently holds final authority because the pipeline would cross international borders

McConnell said he will allow amendments to the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota.

“I would hope senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments but there will be no effort to micromanage the amendment process and we’ll move forward and hopefully be able to pass a very important job-creating bill early in the session,” McConnell said.

The House has repeatedly approved a bill that would take the Keystone decision out of the Obama administration’s hands, end the review and give the project the green light.

The Democratic-led Senate ignored that bill for months, but during the lame-duck session – with Senate Energy Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, days away from a runoff election and looking for a way to show her clout – came up one vote shy of advancing it.

Afterward, McConnell shrugged off that vote, pledging that the measure would return – and fare better – once new lawmakers took office and Republicans gained control of the Senate.

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CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.