Keystone Pipeline bill goes down to defeat in Senate

For six years, the Obama administration has been "studying" whether or not to build the Keystone Pipeline.  Yesterday, the Senate tried to take matters into their own hands by voting on a bill that would have authorized the building of the pipeline, which would originate in Canada and run the length of the U.S. down to the Gulf of Mexico.  Estimates on the number of jobs that would be created vary, but the number most often cited is 42,000 construction jobs lasting two years.  That estimate comes from the TransCanada CEO.  Others – even some supporters of the pipeline – put the number at less than 5,000 jobs.

No matter.  President Obama has said recently that he will approve the pipeline only if it doesn't contribute to CO2 emissions.  The State Department released a preliminary study last January that claimed that very little CO2 would be emitted.  But Obama is under massive pressure from greens not to build the pipeline.  And the greens are pressuring Democrats in Congress.

Yesterday, 15 Democrats joined 45 Republicans in voting "yes" on the construction of the pipeline.  But it wasn't enough, as 60 votes were needed to beat the filibuster.


A bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline failed in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, sparing President Barack Obama from an expected veto of legislation that several fellow Democrats supported.

The measure fell just short of the 60 votes needed for passage, despite frantic last-minute lobbying by supporters, especially Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who faces a runoff election on Dec. 6. She has staked her hopes of winning a fourth Senate term on the Keystone gambit.

The tally was 59 to 41 on TransCanada Corp's $8 billion project, with all 45 Republicans supporting the bill.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who will become Senate Majority Leader in January after his party made big gains in this month's midterm elections, said after the vote that consideration of a Keystone bill would be "very early up" in the next congress.  

Obama opposed the Keystone bill and wants the State Department to finish its review of the pipeline. He has said he would not approve the pipeline if it significantly raised greenhouse gas emissions.

If the bill had passed, Obama was widely expected to veto it, a power he has used only three times during his six years in office. Obama raised new questions about the project during a trip to Asia late last week, saying it would not lower gas prices for U.S. drivers but would allow Canada to "pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else."

Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, who co-sponsored the Keystone bill with Landrieu, has pledged to keep trying to force approval of the project that the administration has kept under review for more than six years.

Hoeven may introduce a new bill in January or February, or he could attach a Keystone measure to a broader bill that Obama would find difficult to veto.

The big loser, of course, is Landrieu, who is looking for a miracle to get back in her runoff race with Bill Cassidy.  She might have gotten it if Keystone supporter and independent Senator Angus King of Maine had voted for the bill.  But King didn't think it was the job of Congress to be voting on a construction project, and Landrieu's hopes were dashed.

Congress is not likely to address Keystone again this session, so it looks like approval of the project will have to wait until next January, when the GOP will be in charge of both houses of Congress.