Senate Comes One Vote Shy of Passing Keystone Bill

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In an unusual political twist, it is likely to be a Democrat who suffers most from the Senate’s failure to pass the House’s Keystone XL pipeline bill. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was already facing long odds in her runoff election with opponent Bill Cassidy, and the 59-41 vote – just missing the majority needed – will likely seal her fate in next month’s vote.

Conventional Washington wisdom doubted that the Senate would vote on the bill at all until next year, but Landrieu herself fought hard to push legislation through before her runoff. She had hoped that by championing a successful bill, she would be able to show her constituents that she was willing to go to bat for Louisiana’s oil industry. Cassidy, who enjoys a comfortable lead over the Democrat, issued a statement rife with criticism, saying that Landrieu didn’t have the congressional clout she claimed.

The failure of the bill to pass was also a defeat for Republicans, of course, but the difference is that they have next year’s session to fall back on. Only minutes after the failed vote, new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that the Keystone bill would be “an early item on the agenda” when the newly-reshaped Senate took power in January.

Landrieu’s support of the bill put her at odds with liberal Democrats, leftist environmental activists, and the White House itself. Obama and top White House officials spent much of the week hinting that he would veto the legislation if it passed, though his refusal to come right out and telegraph that move gave pipeline supporters room for hope. Obama, however, has steadfastly remained opposed to the bill, claiming that he would prefer to wait until the State Department finishes their project review. The review in question has been going on for nearly six years.

The Keystone XL is intended to serve as a pipeline between the tar sands of western Canada and the Texas Gulf Coast, and it has attracted supporters and opponents with equal ferocity. Supporters say it would represent a major step towards energy independence as well as a strengthened economic partnership between the U.S. and Canada. Opponents claim it would be an environmental disaster, spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and presenting a dangerous spill threat.

While liberals and conservatives in Washington play the politics game, the fact remains that the majority of Americans want to see the pipeline approved. Early investigations have already pointed out that construction of the pipeline would have no significant effects on carbon pollution, seeing as how the Alberta tar sands are to be extracted one way or the other. Furthermore, the project itself could potentially create nearly 2,000 construction jobs in states that could sorely use the employment. Hopefully, with a Republican majority and the aid of sensible, moderate Democrats, we can see this valuable project move forward in 2015.