In a combustible blend of oil and politics, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected legislation Tuesday night aimed at forcing completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Republicans vowed to resurrect the controversial issue swiftly after taking two-house control of Congress in January.
The 59-41 Senate vote was one shy of the 60 needed to clear the House-passed measure. The outcome marked a severe blow to embattled Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who had seized control of the chamber’s agenda in hopes of securing approval of the project and boosting her chances in an uphill Dec. 6 runoff election in her energy-rich state.
All 45 Senate Republicans supported the legislation to build the Canada-to-Texas pipeline. Only 14 of 55 Democrats and allied independents joined them, a total that didn’t budge despite an appeal delivered by the Louisiana Democrat behind closed doors a few hours before the vote.
The vote was one of the last acts of this Senate controlled by the Democrats. It is expected to complete its work by mid-December.
But Republicans said a pipeline replay with the potential to spark a veto confrontation with President Barack Obama would be coming — and soon.
“I wish the Senate would have followed the lead of Congressman Cassidy and his House colleagues in approving Keystone years ago. It’s just common sense,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said in advance of the vote. With no passage Tuesday night, “a new majority will be taking this matter up and sending it to the president” in 2015, McConnell said.
Rep. Bill Cassidy is Landrieu’s opponent in the runoff election. He was the lead sponsor of an identical bill that cleared the House last week.
Among Senate Democrats, 14 had publicly announced their support for the bill in the hours before the vote, but several whom Landrieu had hoped would provide the critical 60th vote needed for passage failed to step forward.
Several Democrats said the issue was discussed at some length at a weekly closed-door meeting of the party’s senators. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a supporter of the bill, said Landrieu pointed out that “this vote is going to happen, whether it happens now or it happens in January, same outcome, so why not do it now? She brought it to a head.”