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* Republicans include pipeline in highway funding bill
* Obama had put the pipeline on hold
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, April 17 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday said Obama would veto legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives that sought to force approval of the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline as part of a new 90-day extension of federal transportation funding.
President Barack Obama earlier this year put a hold on TransCanada's $7 billion project, designed to bring crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to Texas refineries, because he said it needed further environmental review in Nebraska.
Last month Obama threw his support behind building the southern leg of the pipeline that would run from the Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub to Texas.
Republicans have argued the full Keystone XL project would create jobs and bring more oil to the United States at a time of surging gasoline prices, and have criticized Obama's decision leading up to the November presidential elections.
The House is expected to vote on the transportation funding bill as early as Wednesday.
The Senate would have to agree to the funding extension and the Keystone plan before the measure could reach Obama's desk.
"I think the House will bring it back and the objective is to get to conference with it," said Senator John Hoeven from North Dakota, who led a fight in the Senate fight to approve the pipeline last month.
Republicans tried to attach approval for the pipeline to the Senate's two-year highway funding bill. The bid failed on a vote of 56-42, four short of the 60 needed to pass in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Eleven Democrats voted with the Republicans.
Because a majority of senators voted in favor of the provision, H oeven said he is optimistic the Keystone measure would survive joint House-Senate conference negotiations.