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U.S. House set to pass Keystone, but Senate a vote shy

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, but a similar bill struggled to get enough support in the Senate and President Barack Obama indicated he might use his veto if the bill does get through Congress.

Republicans were confident of passing the House bill, which would circumvent the need for approval of TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project by the Obama administration.

"We are going to make it as easy as possible for the Senate to finally get a bill to the president's desk that approves this long-overdue Keystone XL pipeline," said Republican Representative Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, who is sponsoring the House bill.

Approval for the pipeline, which would help transport oil from Canada's oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf coast, has rested with the administration as it crosses an international border.

The decision has been pending for more than six years amid jousting between proponents of the pipeline who say it would create thousands of construction jobs and environmentalists who say it would increase carbon emissions linked to climate change.

Obama, speaking at a news conference in Myanmar on Friday, said his position on the 800,000 barrels per day pipeline had not changed.

Obama, who has raised doubts about how many jobs the pipeline would create and said he does not want to interfere with the State Department review of the issue, cited pending legal action in Nebraska and said it was hard to evaluate the pipeline proposal until the actual route was known.

The White House has not made clear whether Obama would use his veto to block the bill currently before Congress, but he has threatened to use that power in the past.

The Senate was still one vote shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, or blocking procedure, and pass a companion bill, an aide to a Keystone supporter in that chamber said on Friday. The Senate vote is expected next Tuesday.

The congressional bills have highlighted both the importance of the pipeline to Louisiana, whose economy is heavily oil-dependent, and the fact that Obama cannot count on full support from members of his Democratic Party on some issues.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, the head of her chamber's energy committee, is co-sponsoring the Keystone bill in the Senate with Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota. She is battling to retain her Senate seat in a runoff election against Cassidy on Dec. 6, after last week's midterm elections.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Frances Kerry)