Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline For Now, Effectively Ends Mary Landrieu’s Political Career

The Keystone XL pipeline bill is dead until the next Senate. Mary Landrieu's political career, on the other hand, is basically dead for the foreseeable future.

Keystone XL Map

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.

FILED UNDER: 2014 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Good. If Canada wants it so bad, let them build it on their land.

  2. wr says:

    So it’s a win-win.

  3. Davebo says:

    Senate will approve Keystone but it won’t save Landrieus

    Senate kills Keystone sinking Landrieus

  4. Dave D says:

    Oh no those 6 permanent jobs won’t be available until the new senate votes.

  5. jc says:

    Why is an export pipeline so important to the US to garnish this much brouhaha? Why not this much enthusiasm towards construction projects that improve our infrastructure? Crickets. Perhaps tie the pipeline to funds towards infrastructure repair/replacement

  6. anjin-san says:


    Why not this much enthusiasm towards construction projects that improve our infrastructure?

    That’s a very good point. Why are Republicans so eager to build this pipeline that creates only a handful of jobs and primarily benefits Canada, but they seem to be allergic to fixing our crumbling bridges and roads?

  7. Bob@Youngstown says:

    As a former Trans Canadian Pipeline employee (low level) I can just hear them next year saying….’ it took a while but we finally bought enough votes so we can use the US to help line our pockets’.

  8. Stonetools says:


    Well, that would be like stimulus and as all conservatives know, stimulus programs aimed at repairing infrastructure can’t create jobs because Reasons. Oh well, I guess some Senators think objections to the Keystone XL have merit. They must have missed the memo.

  9. Pinky says:

    I’ve never seen her referred to as “Mary L. Landrieu” before. But today we all know what the L stands for. She might as well be pressing it against her forehead.

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    This is all political kabuki theater. The tar sands are not economically feasible.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Ultimately it’s gonna be Obamas choice.
    And I’d prefer we burnt less carbon but I can’t get excited about this one way or another.
    Still, I find this vote fascinating.

  12. Tyrell says:

    This seems shabby treatment by the Democrats of one of their own people. Shameful. Dishonorable.

  13. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Why are Republicans so eager to build this pipeline that creates only a handful of jobs and primarily benefits Canada, but they seem to be allergic to fixing our crumbling bridges and roads?”

    Because they’re on the payrolls of the oil companies.

  14. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “This seems shabby treatment by the Democrats of one of their own people. Shameful. Dishonorable.”

    Yes, a majority of the senate Democrats should have voted for something they believed was wrong for the country and the world in a doomed attempt to save the political career of one of their most useless members. Because this is what is important in governance.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    If your name is President Obama do you swap Keystone for a clean funding bill? Or is it more valuable than that?
    It’s a new world. Meaningless things like Keystone have value.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Bill Cosby is some shit, eh?

  17. Tyrell says:

    @wr: What is important is loyalty and fairness. Senator Landrieu has helped and supported fellow Democrats over the years. She has been an effective Southern Democrat. Now she gets stabbed in the back.

  18. Anonne says:

    Loyalty is only one principle among many. Republicans clearly value loyalty over integrity, honesty, evidence and science. Hell, even the finances don’t make sense, with oil prices too low to make it feasible. Cretins.

  19. Pinky says:

    @wr: There are a lot of ways the Senate Democrats could have handled it. Tie it to something else, delay it, send it to the President for a pocket veto, pass a resolution, set up a commission to study it…just about anything but this. This is a public embarrassment. This is dragging her name through the mud.

  20. Dude says:

    @Anonne: what is it to you whether it is financially viable or not? It isn’t your money building it.

    And you can be sure if it were a “green” pipeline, the democrats would be touting all of those shovel ready jobs.

    And just one last fyi, ALL infrastructure jobs are impermanent. All of the crony jobs Obama has touted and every road construction job.

    You guys need to get your spin straight.

  21. Pharoah Narim says:

    What happens when OPEC puts enough oil on the market to make shale oil economically unfeasible? #Benghazi!

  22. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: “Bill Cosby is some shit, eh?”

    I’ve worked with him. And I have no idea if the allegations are true…

    …but if you grew up playing his records and loved the idea of working with him… you would be disappointed. Seriously, seriously disappointed.

  23. wr says:

    @Tyrell: “What is important is loyalty and fairness.”

    Funny, I’d think that what was important was the best interests of the country.

  24. Hal_10000 says:


    And just one last fyi, ALL infrastructure jobs are impermanent. All of the crony jobs Obama has touted and every road construction job.

    This is true. I’m kind of mixed on infrastructure as a jobs creator or an economic stimulant. But this bizarre talking point of “those tens of thousands of jobs are only temporary” needs to be squashed. Or at least, people need to be consistent. If you were in favor of stimulus because it would create temporary jobs, you can’t be against Keystone because it creates only temporary jobs. There are reasons to be against it, but that ain’t one.

  25. Console says:

    Ah yes, the Keystone pipeline, where alleged small-government conservatives and libertarians let the mask slip and advocate for the government to use eminent domain to give land to private corporations.

  26. bill says:

    @Ron Beasley: but not for us, canada can subsidize it and we benefit- hey, it may create some union jobs for a while and keep that junk off the rail/roads. unfortunately this turned into another “us vs. them” (you’re for obama or against him) thing that people can’t seem to go back on. it’s just another pipeline in a country full of pipelines and it will generate jobs/cash.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @anjin-san: The pipeline will disproportionately benefit certain people who both donate tons of cash to conservatives and own refineries in Texas.

  28. Ben Wolf says:


    And just one last fyi, ALL infrastructure jobs are impermanent. All of the crony jobs Obama has touted and every road construction job.

    True. However some impermanent jobs are better for knock-on effects than others. Infrastructure won’t be particularly effective for promoting employment but it would be a superior financial shot in the arm compared to Keystone.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Have you ever heard the bit about go-karts?
    Me and my friends actually built go- karts based on that.
    Disappointing like Lyle Alzado and Lance Armstrong disappointing .

  30. stonetools says:

    It seems the Democrats made exactly the calculation Doug was urging two days ago. They concluded that saving Landrieu was probably hopeless. However, they voted contrary to his wishes, because they drew a different conclusion which was-Why, p!ss off reliable Democratic voters and donors-environmentalists-in order to vote for a pipeline they don’t believe in?
    Here is Senator Patrick Leahy (one of the best Democratic Senators, IMO)tweeting:

    Existing #Keystone pipeline spilled 12 times in 1st year of operation, an environmental hazard that should not be fast tracked

    A Video here

    Now the Democratic Senators might have earlier voted for the pipeline in order placate red state voters, but its become clear that those voters won’t vote for Democrats anyway, no matter what they do. I think that Senate Democrats have given up on placating red state voters for the foreseeable future-which sucks for Landrieu in the short term. In the longer term, the Democratic message will be more consistient and the Democratic coalition more cohesive.

  31. stonetools says:

    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

    Another way to view this is that Harry Reid has to convince four Democrats to follow the McConnell strategy of not giving the Republicans any legislative victories no matter what in order to frustrate political opponents and depress opposing turnout. You can rest assured he is telling Senate Democrats, “We have to do to them what they did to us, or we’re wusses.”
    MCconnell really poisoned the well here, and I can see the poison working against him to convince Democrats to unite in order to execute what is now a proven political strategy-massive obstructionism.

    Reid can dangle incentives in front of them too. “When we win big in 2016, I’ll remember who was with me now when the time comes for me to pass out the goodies when I’m Majority Leader again.” I can see that working on Democrats like Casey, MCaskill, et al.
    Bottom line: its not at all clear that there are 63 firm votes for the XL pipeline in the Next Congress.

  32. Barry says:

    Doug: “Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline For Now, Effectively Ends Mary Landrieu’s Political Career”

    Bull. She was doomed. And notice that the GOP didn’t give a flying f*ck,either. Considering that it’s (a) a likely source of massive pollution and (b) energy companies supported it, that’s something.

  33. stonetools says:

    BTW, about ending Landrieu’s career: Isn’t there another Louisiana Senate election in 2016? A Presidential election year? And doesn’t Bobby Jindal have to run for re-election at some point?

    Todd says Jindal is facing an uphill battle in a presidential run – especially with low approval ratings here in Louisiana. Todd says analysts estimate Bobby Jindal and Barack Obama have about the same approval rating in Louisiana

    Seems there is a possibility there.

    I’m not so sure Landrieu is done. This is Louisiana, after all, and surely stranger things have happened than a Landrieu political comeback.

  34. grumpy realist says:

    I thought there were questions as to how useful this thing would be with the latest drop in oil prices?

    Hell of a way to run a railway, guys. Building an N-thousand km long pipeway to connect to tar sands that aren’t economically feasible to work.

  35. JKB says:

    Earlier this year, the State Department released an environmental review that concluded the Keystone XL very likely wouldn’t have a significant effect on greenhouse gas emissions because the oil will ultimately be produced, even if the pipeline is not built. But environmental groups object to that conclusion and want the oil left in the ground.

    How many jobs would the pipeline create, and where?

    The State Department estimates the construction phase would create about 42,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate about $2 billion in earnings in the U.S. Opponents dispute some of those numbers. One thing is clear: Once construction is finished in about two years, the pipeline would create only about 50 new permanent jobs.

    And that from your beloved NPR

    A bit of a shot in the Democratic wars. The unions lost jobs, the Enviros won, but in January of 2017, the next President, most like a Republican, can just issue the permit.

  36. C. Clavin says:

    So you endorse the gubmint taking peoples land? Good to know.

  37. Dave D says:

    @JKB: Please tell me more about our future Republican President.

  38. Pinky says:

    @Dave D: Is that so far out of the realm of imagination for you? (SuperD, is that you?)

  39. Dave D says:

    @Pinky: I think the way the current electoral college numbers work it is going to be an uphill battle. Possible yes, but with any sort of effective ground game and or GOTV campaign for the Dems probable maybe not. I just loved the most likely thrown in that it will be a Republican. And no I am not sd as a white male I lack oppression he clearly perceives society has for us.

  40. Pinky says:

    @Dave D: I don’t know how old you are, but I’ve been hearing about iron locks on the presidency, the House, and the Senate all my life. They never seem to last more than a decade. That’s also why I discount most of the red/blue stuff. 80% of states will go either way depending on the quality of the candidates.

  41. Dave D says:

    @Pinky: True. I’m 28 so as long as I’ve been paying attention everything hinges entirely upon Ohio and Florida.

  42. Anonne says:

    When private companies come crying for a bailout, that’s our tax dollars going to socialize the losses. And there will be some bailout of some sort, especially if something blows up and kills people. Why do you think they are hankering so badly for this pipeline, except that government funds to help development will come their way? It’s cronyism, pure and simple.

    The cost to extract this oil from this source are very expensive, and if oil prices don’t justify the cost, what do you expect to happen but another bailout or some bankruptcy leaving taxpayers on the hook?

  43. Grewgills says:


    80% of states will go either way depending on the quality of the candidates.

    Things are a bit more fluid than most people credit them, but there is no way that 40 states are in play for either party in 2016. The Southeast outside of Florida and Virginia (if you count them as Southeastern) is a lock for the Republicans. That’s 10 states gone right there, add in the Dakotas, Wyoming and Utah as Republican locks. On the other side Massachusetts, Maryland, California, Hawaii and a few more are locks for the Dems. At best 60% are in play for extreme cases of good candidate/ bad candidate switches and under normal circumstances better than half are 95% or better for one side or the other. That doesn’t mean that will exist in perpetuity as party platforms and demographics shift, but in the near term 80% is VERY optimistic.

  44. Eric Florack says:

    @Ron Beasley: really? So, explain those shipments of Iron Rail that make Burlington Northern billions of dollars a year?explain how there’s a shortage of rail capacity to move food because it’s so busy moving oil? Explain the price drops in the oil market? Explain the nervousness of Saudi Arabia?

  45. Pinky says:

    @Grewgills: I’ll say this: 6 years from now, a presidential candidate could win both California and Tennessee.

    The interesting thing is that no candidate wants to win both. If you’ve got an extra week and $100 million, your advisors would tell you to spend it in Ohio. If you’re doing great, maybe Nevada or West Virginia. But a 53% win means you wasted some of your effort that could be channeled to another candidate, according to the dominant way of campaign thinking. Almost no thought is given to making inroads, or attaining a broad mandate. In other words, to unifying the country. Better to aim for 270 plus a comfort margin.