WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives passed an energy bill on Thursday that would wrest control of a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline away from President Barack Obama, who has put the project on hold.
The bill, part of a broader House Republican effort to fund highways and infrastructure projects, would also expand offshore oil drilling and open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.
While approval of the Keystone measure by the House was widely expected, what happens with a similar proposal in the Democratic-controlled Senate is not yet clear.
Senate leaders were still negotiating on Thursday whether to allow a vote on Keystone as part of debate on a highway funding legislation, said Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota who has been a key advocate for the $7 billion Canada-to-Texas project.
"I think on the merits we're going to get it done. I don't know when. I hope in the highway bill, but if not, we'll stick with it," Hoeven told Reuters.
Hoeven developed legislation that would see Congress grant TransCanada a permit for the project, and filed the bill as an amendment to the highway funding package.
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Republicans have seized upon the Canadian oil pipeline as a way to criticize Obama for his job creation and energy policies in the 2012 election race.