The Senate reconvened this week for the first time since the Obama administration’s Good-Friday announcement of their latest and perhaps lamest excuse for pushing the Keystone XL pipeline decision past another clutch election season — this time, a judge’s injunction against the proposed pipeline route in Nebraska is serving as the pretext — and the pipeline’s fate has been a big behind-the-scenes topic of debate in the upper chamber. Pro-energy/pipeline Republicans and Democrats alike were publicly livid about the administration’s non-decision, and several select senators have been trying to organize a vote on a bill that would effectively take the approval authority out of the executive’s hands. Via The Hill:
Keystone XL supporters on Thursday introduced legislation they said was backed by 56 senators that would immediately greenlight the controversial oil pipeline.
“I have 56 hard yeses,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who introduced the bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), told reporters Thursday.
“Beyond that I’ve got six or seven maybes. Our challenge is going to be to get to 60 votes,” he said. …
Hoeven said talks are still in the works with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to get the bill to the floor. …
Landrieu says she wants a vote on stand-alone legislation, and seemed adamant that anything else was out of the question on Thursday.
“The decision has already been made — we are moving forward on a vote on Keystone, and we are going to move forward on the energy efficiency bill,” Landrieu said.
Heitkamp, Hagan, Pryor, Tester, Warner, McCaskill, Manchin, Begich, Walsh, and Donnelly are the ten other Democrats already signed up along with Landrieu, who is going to make the biggest deal possible out of the whole Keystone XL mess — the better to demonstrate to her constituents in Louisiana that she’s making the most out of her Energy Committee chairmanship influence and can get the job done on pro-energy agenda items. When the Senate voted on a nonbinding, symbolically Keystone-supportive resolution about this time last year, the count was 62 yeas and 37 nays — enough to overcome any filibusters but not enough to overcome a veto from the White House (which Obama did threaten to do when Congress was considering legit legislation back in 2012).
Even if they can’t quite rack up the 66-senator veto-proof majority, the legislation would helpfully spotlight the pressure that vulnerable red-state Democrats are trying to put on him — which is probably why Reid has so far been pretty noncommittal on whether he’ll allow a for-real vote on the whole thing at all:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has indicated in the last couple of days that he’s open to a vote. But in agreeing to one, he’s in the difficult position of having to decide whether to make it a binding measure that would somehow force the Obama administration’s hand, or just a resolution of support for the pipeline. …
Whether to even schedule a vote has created a challenge for Senate Democratic leaders. If they avoiding one, they’d play into the hands of Republicans, who argue that if Democrats were serious about helping wage earners, they would authorize construction of the pipeline and the jobs it would create. By scheduling a vote, they boost lawmakers like Ms. Landrieu, who is in a tough re-election battle, but risk splitting their party, which is divided between oil-state Democrats on one side and environmental-leaning Democrats on the other.