Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu took to the Senate floor Wednesday to ask for unanimous consent to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline Thursday in an effort to shore up support before her upcoming runoff election.
While Landrieu was promoting her bill to approve the pipeline on the Senate floor, her Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy announced his own Keystone bill.
The Keystone vote by Landrieu and Cassidy comes before the candidates compete in a runoff election in December. Cassidy has been trying to paint Landrieu as an ineffective legislator and tie her to President Obama’s economic agenda.
“The House has passed legislation to expedite the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline eight times,” Cassidy said in a statement. “The Senate did not consider any of the eight. I will now pass a bill identical to the bill the Senate is said to consider to push this issue forward.”
“If the Senate also passes the bill it can go straight to the President’s desk for signature,” Cassidy added. “It is easy to wonder if the Senate is only considering this because of politics… When I’m on the Senate Energy Committee next year, I will work to ensure the President follows the law and allows the construction of this pipeline.”
Landrieu faces bleak reelection prospects and likely sees the pipeline as a way to boost her support among Louisianans, many of whom are employed in the oil and natural gas industry. It would also be a way for Landrieu to distance herself from President Obama, who has bashed the pipeline’s economic benefits and refused to approve the project for years.
Landrieu bringing up the bill now could also steal thunder from Republicans before they take control of both houses of Congress in January.
“If people are going hide, they’re going to have a hard time,” she added. “We already have enough votes to pass this… Every single Republican in this chamber is a cosponsor of the bill that I’m going to ask unanimous consent.”
Citing the startling success of North Dakota’s oil industry, Landrieu argued that Keystone XL pipeline would move the U.S. economy forward and benefit the middle class. Landrieu was joined by Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — all of whom support the pipeline’s approval.
“Everybody benefits,” Manchin said, also pointing to the environmental and safety benefits of moving oil by pipeline.
“Shipping oil by pipeline is the safest way to ship it. That is a fact,” Tester said on the Senate floor.
Keystone XL has once again hit the top of the political agenda after Republicans swept Democrats out of power in the national election earlier this month. Republicans promised to pass a bill approving the pipeline when they take control of the Senate next year.
Pushing a Keystone vote now would also rob Senate Republicans the chance to vote on other environment amendments on Landrieu’s bill or attach their own amendments.
But even if a Keystone bill makes it out of Congress and makes it to Obama’s desk, it’s unclear if he will sign it into law. Obama said after the Republican electoral landslide that he would let the process play out on Keystone.
“Keystone I just consider as one small aspect of a broader trend that’s really positive for the American people,” Obama told reporters. “There’s an independent process that’s moving forward, I’m going to let that process play out.”
“Is this going to be good for the American people?” Obama asked. “Is this going to be good for the pocketbook? Is it actually going to create jobs? Is it actually going to reduce gas prices that are coming down? And is it going to be on net something that doesn’t increase climate change that we’re going to have to grapple with?”
Keystone has been delayed for more than six years as the State Department considers whether or not the project is in the national interest. The Department has said the pipeline would be environmentally friendly and have little impact on the climate, but environmentalists have fought the project.
Pipeline supporters, however, argue that delaying the pipeline only hurts the middle class who would benefit from gasoline prices and jobs from more oil flowing into the country.
“It is shameful. It is wrong, and it must stop today,” Landrieu said on the Senate floor.
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