Republicans will quickly introduce stand-alone legislation in the first quarter of 2015 that would approve the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline from Canada, testing President Barack Obama's resolve on the project, Republican Senator John Hoeven said on Wednesday in an interview.
The move could bring end the long-standing limbo of TransCanada's $8 billion project, which has languished for more than six years in a series of studies, reviews and legal challenges.
"I think Keystone will be one of the first bills we'll be able to put up in the new Congress," said Hoeven, who is from the oil-rich state of North Dakota.
After Tuesday's elections, Republicans will have majorities in both houses of Congress starting in January.
"I've got a bill right now that's got about 56 co-sponsors," said Hoeven, who has fought for years in Congress to advance such a bill. "And with the election results, we'll have over 60 who clearly support the legislation."
Obama has expressed reservations about the environmental impact of the pipeline, which would carry as much as 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. He has said the project needs his approval because it crosses an international border.
Hoeven's bill would see Congress asserting its powers under the foreign commerce clause of the Constitution to approve the pipeline.
"In essence, it's making that decision congressionally, rather than presidentially," Hoeven said.
The Keystone bill still would need Obama's signature to become law. Hoeven said that will be a test to see whether Obama is willing to work with the new Congress.
If Obama vetoes the bill, Republicans then would seek to attach it to must-pass legislation on other energy or appropriations issues, Hoeven said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott)