GOP Leaders Vow To Avenge Keystone XL’s Defeat
Top Republican lawmakers have vowed to continue to pressure the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline after it was rebuffed by Senate Democrats Tuesday night.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get the votes tonight to approve this important infrastructure project, but this isn’t over,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“The Keystone XL pipeline will be a top priority next year for the new majority,”she said after the Keystone XL bill was defeated. “It’s been over six years that this project has been under review – that’s more than enough time for President Obama to make a decision.”
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that “once the 114th Congress convenes, the Senate will act again on this important legislation, and I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the New Year.”
The bill to approve Keystone XL was introduced by Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, in what critics have called a likely effort to boost her popularity before her runoff election next month. Her bill was defeated Tuesday night after it failed to get the 60 votes needed to make it out of the Senate.
Even if Landrieu’s bill had gotten the 60 votes needed to end debate and advance to a final vote, the White House hinted President Obama would veto it. The White House says Obama wants to see the State Department finish its review of the pipeline before he decides to approve it.
Despite the threat of veto, Republican leaders believe they will have enough votes to pass a future Keystone bill in the next Congress. A quick tally suggests there could be nine or ten Democrats willing to vote in favor of approving Keystone — depending on whether or not Landrieu wins her runoff election next month.
But even with a Republican majority and some pro-pipeline Democrats, there’s unlikely to be enough votes to overcome a presidential veto. So far, the White House has opposed any legislative attempt to approve Keystone XL.
“Passing Keystone XL should be a no-brainer, yet President Obama and Democrats in Congress keep kicking the can down the road,” said Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “After all the talk from Sen. Landrieu who claimed they had enough Democrat votes, this must be a let-down for her.”
Pipeline company TransCanada first applied for a permit to build Keystone XL back in 2008 to bring oil sands from Alberta, Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. It would be an expansion of the already operating Keystone pipeline which brings Albertan oil sands and Bakken crude oil to refineries in Illinois.
But fierce opposition from environmental groups has stalled the project for six years. Environmentalists argue the pipeline will cause oil spills and contribute to global warming through increased oil production and refining operations. Eco-activists were ecstatic after the Senate failed to pass Landrieu’s bill.
“The bill would have turned Congress into a permitting authority, overriding environmental law, and giving a green light to a pipeline project that would worsen climate change and threaten water quality,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Senate did the right thing to reject the misguided bill, and now the president should do the right thing and reject the pipeline.”
The State Department’s review of the pipeline, however, found that Keystone XL would have little impact on environmental quality or the climate as Canadian oil sands will be brought to market regardless of its approval — mostly by rail.
Pipeline proponents also argue that approving the project will create thousands of jobs and increase North American energy independence.
“We have everything to gain by building this pipeline, especially since it would help create thousands of jobs right here at home. Keystone XL is expected to create 20,000 direct jobs during construction and 118,000 indirect and spinoff jobs,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who supported Landrieu’s bill.
“With well over 1,000 American businesses already supplying goods and services to pipeline companies, the ripple effects of these projects would continue to boost economic prosperity and create more employment opportunities in other industries,” Manchin said. “Every state – including West Virginia – would benefit economically from this activity.”
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