McConnell pledges to make Keystone Pipeline the new Senate’s first task

Future Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed on Wednesday that the first order of business for the new GOP-dominated upper chamber of Congress will be to send a bill to President Barack Obama’s desk approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The nearly 1,200-mile long pipeline which would direct Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast failed to pass the Senate by one vote as part of a gambit by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) aimed at maintaining control of her seat. She lost in a runoff election on December 6 by nearly 12 points.

“People want jobs,” McConnell told reporters on Wednesday. “And this project will create well-paying, high-wage jobs for our people and it certainly does enjoy a lot of bipartisan support.”

McConnell said he will allow amendments to the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota.

“I would hope senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments but there will be no effort to micromanage the amendment process and we’ll move forward and hopefully be able to pass a very important job-creating bill early in the session,” McConnell said.

The House has repeatedly approved a bill that would take the Keystone decision out of the Obama administration’s hands, end the review and give the project the green light.

The House most recently approved the Keystone Pipeline’s construction by a vote of 252 to 161, with 31 Democratic members joining with the majority. Of those members, 24 will be returning to Washington D.C. when the new Congress is sworn in on January 6.

In the Senate, 14 Democrats joined Republicans and voted to send the bill approving of the pipeline to the White House where it would likely have been vetoed by the president. Barack Obama was spared the decision to wield his veto pen, however, when 40 Senate Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) voted to block the proposal.

“Given the number of Democrats who supported the bill on Tuesday, Republicans may well be able to muster a filibuster-proof 60 votes to pass the pipeline in the next Congress, but they are still likely to fall a few votes short of 67, the number required to override a presidential veto,” The New York Times reported in November.

Senate Republicans are likely to find the six Democratic votes they need to finally approve a bill authorizing Keystone’s construction, but it is important to remember the Democratic argument against Keystone that won the day when the Senate blocked the provision in November.

Opposition to Keystone on the Senate floor was led by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who made such convincing argument as

• Claiming that increased oil production and refinement would result in higher gasoline prices
• The claim that the combustion of Canadian tar sands oil would release particulate matter and heavy metals into the atmosphere, unlike every other petroleum product.
• A picture of a little girl wearing an oxygen mask… That’s it.
Perhaps Boxer’s least convincing argument against Keystone, and there were many, was her insistence that the United States should reject the pipeline in order to better emulate California’s green economy.

“I come from a state that is booming with hundreds of thousands of jobs with balanced budgets,” Boxer riffed on the Senate floor. “Ask yourself the question, is it worth exposing our people to these risks who I stood with shoulder to shoulder, and is it worth exposing the planet to these risks when we can create millions of jobs in a clean energy economy like we’re doing in my state. And we’re going gangbusters!”

And she’s right, if by “gangbusters” she means a state with an unemployment rate 1.5 percent higher than the national average and with among the highest income, property, and sales taxes in the nation.

Those Democrats who vote against Keystone in the next session will be again endorsing Boxer’s distorted view of her home state’s economy. Americans should be well aware that the Democrats who continue to oppose Keystone are embracing a California-style economy for the United States. You’ve been warned.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET