Senate Vote Puts Keystone Pipeline On Ice

Mitch McConnellReutersFrom left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., pause during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 18

A bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was defeated in the Senate on Tuesday.

The Senate voted 59-41 putting the bill one vote shy of the 60 it needed to reach the White House.

President Barack Obama did not support the bill to approve the pipeline, which would have carried petroleum from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

The White House has not indicated whether he would have vetoed the bill if it was approved. However, last week, Obama spoke out against the bill during a trip to Asia and his comments were widely seen as a sign he would ultimately block the pipeline.

The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a vote to approve the pipeline on Nov. 14 and GOP senators pushed to pass similar legislation.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who is set to become the majority leader next year following the GOP’s Senate takeover in the midterm elections earlier this month, issued a statement after the vote vowing he would take up the matter again when his party is in control.

“Tonight, Senate Democrats once again stood in the way of a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work — a remarkable stance after an election in which the American people sent a clear message to Congress to approve serious policies like the Keystone XL Pipeline and get the Senate working again,” McConnell said. “Unfortunately, many Senate Democrats failed to hear that message. But 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.”

After the Senate vote, the Republican National Committee issued a statement criticising Democrats for blocking the pipeline.

“Today Democrat dysfunction once again prevailed over a job-creating project voters overwhelmingly support and is firmly in the national interest,” the statement said.

One Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana was aggressively lobbying on behalf of the bill. Landrieu is currently in a tough runoff race to keep her seat against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who authored the House pipeline bill. Due to the large number of oil industry jobs in Louisiana, the pipeline is quite popular with voters there. Louisiana’s Senate runoff is scheduled for Dec. 6 and polls indicate Landrieu is facing an uphill battle.

The RNC characterised the Senate vote as proof Landrieu is “only effective when it comes to delivering for President Obama.”

“Louisianans can send another strong message to President Obama by firing Senator Landrieu and replacing her with the effective, pro-energy leadership of Bill Cassidy,” the statement said.

The pipeline was strongly opposed by environmental groups. Following the Senate vote, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released a statement praising the Senate vote.

“We applaud the Senators who stood up for the health of our families and our climate by fighting back against this big polluter-funded sideshow. There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL,” said Brune. “Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do.”

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