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Pelosi says Democrats have enough votes to sustain Obama vetoes

WASHINGTON — House Democrats have enough votes to sustain all three of the early vetoes President Barack Obama has threatened against priority bills in the new Republican-controlled Congress, party leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday as divided government headed for the first political showdown of a new year.

Pelosi, D-California, made her comments as a Senate committee cleared legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and Republicans urged the president to reconsider his threat to veto the measure.

“Unfortunately, the president’s been taking steps toward more confrontation, rather than bipartisan cooperation on jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The Keystone legislation is one of three the White House has said that Obama will reject.

A second, to roll back some of the regulations imposed on the financial industry in the wake of the 2008 economic crash, fell short of passage in the House on Wednesday but is expected to clear on a revote next week.

A third, to make a change in the health care law, was lined up for House approval later in the day.

At a news conference, Pelosi said, “We will sustain the president’s veto on that,” a forecast she also extended to the pipeline and financial industry measures.

A two-thirds vote is required in both houses for Congress to enact legislation over a presidential veto.

Larger struggles are ahead, including a Republican attempt to force Obama to roll back changes in immigration policy that will shield many immigrants from deportation even if they are in the country illegally.

Republicans have said they will try and use funding legislation required by late February for the Department of Homeland Security as leverage in that struggle. They said they would go ahead with that plan despite the Paris terrorist attack on a magazine office on Wednesday that left 12 dead.

“I don’t believe that the funding of the department is in fact at risk. What is at risk is the rule of law and the sanctity of America’s Constitution,” Boehner said.

At a news conference, he noted that he promised last year to fight Obama “tooth and nail” on the issue once new Republican majorities had taken office, adding: “And I meant it.”

The Keystone legislation shapes up as the marquee struggle of the early days of the new Congress.

It was the first bill introduced in the Senate this year, and became the first during the day to clear a committee, as well.

The vote in the Energy and Natural Resources was 13-9, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, joining all Republicans in supporting the measure.

The House will vote on an identical bill on Friday, and passage is expected.

ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

Associated Press writers Connie Cass and Stephen Ohlemacher contributed to this report.