Republicans in the House of Representatives today held a hearing on legislation that would do just that in the event that Obama denies a permit for the proposed pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast..
Could they get away with it?
Maybe, reports the Washington Post in an interesting article.
Such a move would raise constitutional division-of-powers questions:
The Congressional Research Service has examined this question in two separate reports, and in a 2012 report, it suggests Congress has just as much a right to weigh in on international pipelines as the president.
That report notes, “Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to ‘regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.’ Whereas any independent presidential authority in matters affecting foreign commerce derives from the President’s more general foreign affairs authority, Congress’s power over foreign commerce is plainly enumerated by the Constitution, suggesting that its authority in this field is preeminent.”
Now, just to complicate matters, a 2013 CRS report notes that a 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota found the president had the right to issue international pipeline permits because Congress had not challenged this authority over a period of several years.
Such a move would trigger lawsuits. And, of course, Obama can veto any legislation out of Congress. So is there enough support in Congress to override a presidential veto with a super-majority vote? Not yet. Notes the Post:
…on March 22 the Senate approved a non-binding resolution in favor of building the project by a vote of 62 to 37, with 17 Democrats voting in favor.
So in the end, can Congress grant a permit to the pipeline even if Obama rejects it? It appears proponents may be able to force the project through, if they can attract a few more Democrats to their side, but they would still have to fight in federal court to seal such a victory.
Full story is here.