Open thread: Senate vote on Keystone XL pipeline; Update: Fail; Update: Nay votes added

For more than five years, Senate Democrats couldn’t bother to lift a finger to press for approval on the Keystone XL pipeline. Tonight at 6:15 pm ET, Harry Reid & Company will conduct a rushed vote to force the Obama administration to allow the construction of the long-delayed project. Reid wants to rescue Mary Landrieu from political oblivion, but a stunt vote will hardly do the trick in Louisiana:


Backers of the Keystone XL oil pipeline hope a vote in the U.S. Senate late on Tuesday will send a bill clearing the way for the controversial project to President Barack Obama.

With the chamber apparently one vote short of ensuring the bill could overcome procedural obstacles, supporters including Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu are working hard to find more support.

Construction of Keystone has broad support in Louisiana, an oil producing state, where Landrieu faces an uphill battle to win a new six-year term in a December run-off election.

Earlier today, Bruce McQuain sounded skeptical that Reid could get to 60, even with Republican participation. If he doesn’t Reid’s going to exit the Majority Leader office looking rather impotent among his own caucus. Even if Reid pulls this off — and I think it’s more likely that he will — the whole enterprise is probably doomed anyway. Barack Obama wants to curry favor with progressives in his lame-dunk years, not with centrists and Republicans. The White House has already been hinting at a veto in the unlikely event that the bill comes to his desk in standalone form:

President Obama and aides have suggested he would veto a bill authorizing construction of the Keystone oil pipeline, but he might not have to face the question.

News reports indicate that Keystone supporters are having trouble getting the 60th vote needed to advance the bill.

The calculus for Obama will be whether it’s worth angering the only constituency he has left in order to trim Landrieu’s likely margin of loss from 20 points to, say, 15 or so. The Magic 8-ball says:



Here’s something else to mull over while Senate Democrats make their bid to rescue Mary Landrieu with a too-little-far-too-late effort to push the Keystone XL pipeline. This entire exercise is supposed to make the case that Landrieu is an indispensable voice on the Energy Committee for Louisiana, even to the point that the state would be better off with a seat in the minority side of the panel rather than in the majority. Just how indispensable has Landrieu’s voice been for her Louisiana constituents? According to Bloomberg, she’s not using it much at all:

Yet her outspokenness and perseverance in legislative forums is relatively new, emerging in the 10 months since she took over the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee and as she faces an uphill battle in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Representative Bill Cassidy.

Between January 2009 and this week, Landrieu didn’t speak or submit written testimony or questions at almost 70 percent of the energy committee hearings, according to an analysis of congressional records, videos and transcripts. Her attendance at 137 of the 200 hearings of the full panel or her subcommittees during that six-year period cannot be confirmed through public records.  …

From 2009 to 2010 she was silent at or skipped 65 of 87 hearings. From 2011 to 2012, she didn’t say anything at or didn’t attend 50 of 66 meetings. And from 2013 to 2014, her presence was undetectable at 22 of 47 sessions. Some of those hearings covered important issues for her coastal state, including the potential for oil spills, gas prices, the Department of Energy’s budget, nominations of key energy regulators, the implementation of the stimulus bill, and the current status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.


Now she’s using her voice, but only because Landrieu finds her back against the wall after years of being an Energy Committee dilettante. Not only would a majority caucus seat be an improvement over Landrieu, but an empty seat might have been a wash.

Update: Well, so much for that. Democrats can’t even get a stunt right, and now they’ve made it doubly worse by blocking the will of the majority:

The Democrat-controlled Senate has defeated a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Senate’s 59-41 vote Tuesday night was a nail-biter to the end.

The bill needed 60 votes to reach the White House. The House passed it overwhelmingly last week.

I’m waiting for the roll call vote to get published.

Update: Sounds like someone’s getting disillusioned with upcoming life in the minority caucus already:

I predicted 55 GOP seats by the start of the next session. It won’t take much more than this for Manchin to start playing Let’s Make a Deal.

Update: Okay, the Senate posted its roll call vote on the bill. Here are the nays:


There are a couple of points here. First, Reid voted nay in order to be able to recall the vote if necessary (a common procedural move), but Dick Durbin’s his #2. Looks like leadership couldn’t get out of its own way here. Angus King shafted Landrieu, and so did Tim Johnson of South Dakota, a state where Democrats have a tough time competing. Otherwise, there aren’t a lot of surprises.


Update (correction): The vote was on the bill itself, not cloture as I wrote the previous update. I’ve fixed it above, but still wanted to note it here. Also added the link to the roll call page. Thanks to Steve Eggleston for the heads-up.

Update: I’m just sayin’ …

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