Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline For Now, Effectively Ends Mary Landrieu’s Political Career
Somewhat surprisingly, the Senate failed to pass the bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, falling one vote short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture:
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Tuesday defeated a bill, 59 to 41, that would have approved the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, rebuffing a Democratic colleague, Senator Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, who had hoped to muscle the legislation through in advance of her uphill runoff election fight back home.
The battle over approving the pipeline, which will carry petroleum from the oil sands of Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, ultimately became a proxy war for the Louisiana Senate seat, where Ms. Landrieu and Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican, are locked in fight for votes in their oil-rich state ahead of a Dec. 6 runoff election.
Ms. Landrieu — who, if re-elected, will lose her coveted position as chairwoman of the Energy Committee when Republicans take the Senate majority next year — spent the past few days working furiously to round up Democratic support for her bill, which she had hoped would be her last, best chance of holding on to her Senate seat.
On Tuesday morning, she was at least one vote short of the filibuster-proof 60 votes she needed. And despite cajoling, persuading, browbeating, and making an impassioned plea to her colleagues during a closed-door lunch — which one attendee described as “civilized but pretty contentious” — Ms. Landrieu, who has so often bulldozed her way to success through sheer force of will, came up just short.
The House, which passed the same legislation on Friday, had voted multiple times already to approve the pipeline. But Tuesday’s vote marked the first time this year that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, agreed to hold on a vote on the bill, which he feared could have hurt the re-election changes of some of his more vulnerable members.
Both Mr. Cassidy and Ms. Landrieu were eager to take credit for supporting the Keystone bill back home, where their state’s economy is heavily dependent on oil-industry jobs. Speaking on the floor, Republicans sought to cast the legislation as “Congressman Cassidy’s Keystone jobs bill,” while Democrats described it as Ms. Landrieu’s brainchild.
Even Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, who did not support the bill and said Keystone XL stood for “extra lethal,” was sure to note that credit for the legislation belonged to Ms. Landrieu.
“Senator Landrieu is the only reason that we are debating this today,” Ms. Boxer said. “Set the politics aside. Let the record be clear forever: This debate would not be before this body were it not for Senator Landrieu’s insistence.”
However, even had the Senate passed the bill, Mr. Obama was not expected to sign it into law.
Before the vote, White House aides stopped short of an explicit veto threat, but left the impression that the president would reject the bill if it made it to his desk.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said, “It certainly is a piece of legislation that the president doesn’t support, because the president believes that this is something that should be determined through the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate projects like this.”
In addition to the entire Senate GOP Caucus, there were also 14 Democratic votes in favor of the bill, including five Senators who are either retiring and being replaced by Republicans or who were defeated on November 4th. Among the No votes were four Senators who were defeated by, or will be replaced by, Republicans in the new Senate. This means that, if and when the bill is brought up for a vote in the new Senate, which is most assuredly will, it will have at least 63 yes votes, four votes short of the 67 needed to override a Presidential veto but more than enough to invoke cloture and pass the bill. Whether such a majority could bring along additional Senators on the yes side who would then be willing to vote to override an expected veto is an open question. In any case, President Obama will have to take a public position on this measure, which has consistently had the support of a majority of the public in the next Congress whether he wants to or not.
As for the real purpose of this particular vote on the bill, to try to save the political career of Mary Landrieu, we can say with assurance that mission has failed. The fact that Landrieu could not even convince a single member of her party’s leadership, or retiring Senators like Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, or Tom Harkin of Iowa to throw her a bone her is perhaps the best indication of any that she has been abandoned by her party. At this point, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to come to Louisiana to campaign for her, or that any national groups will be spending money in the state on her behalf. To the extent anyone is going to get credit for advancing this bill, it’s likely to be Congressman Bill Cassidy, who presently has a double digit lead over her in the polls. While the final margin between the two may end up being a bit closer than the most recent polls, which are from admittedly partisan polling companies, the final outcome of that race isn’t really in doubt at this point.