May 5th, 2014
05:36 PM ET
6 months ago

First on CNN: Keystone bill likely to fail in Senate

(CNN) – A congressional effort to bypass the White House and approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline appears likely to fizzle this week, CNN has learned.

The development comes after three Democratic senators, who cast their support previously for the long-delayed, cross-border pipeline, said they would vote against the legislation.

Such an outcome would be a victory for the Obama administration, which is reviewing environmental concerns about the politically-charged energy project.

Simply moving forward with the vote also would be a political boost for several red-state Democrats facing tough re-election battles who support the pipeline and who want to prove to their constituents that they did everything possible to get it approved.

TransCanada wants to complete a pipeline from northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast that would carry the tar sands oil across six U.S. states.

The $5.3-billion project needs federal approval because the pipeline would cross an international border. For now, the review rests with the State Department, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

He will ultimately deliver a recommendation to President Barack Obama, who will make a final decision.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Keystone opponent, surprised many when he said last week he was open to allowing a vote on the legislation in the coming days.

But now his strategy is becoming clearer - allow a vote that would fail in the Senate, but succeed in giving political cover to some of his most endangered Democratic colleagues - those who if they lose in November could mean a Republican takeover of the Senate.

CNN: Key races to watch in 2014

Senators like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, John Walsh of Montana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, could tell voters they fought hard for one of the energy industry's top priorities and the accompanying jobs that would go with it.

The Keystone proposal, written by Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota and Landrieu, has 56 co-sponsors - 45 Republicans and 11 Democrats. That is still four short of the 60 votes it would need to pass.

Hoeven said last week he hoped to pick up additional votes from Democrats he described as open to voting for the pipeline.

Those votes would likely have to come from six other Democrats who just over a year ago backed a non-binding measure that expressed support for the project.

Of that group, Senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota, citing different reasons, now say they will vote against the current legislation, making it unlikely it would reach the 60-vote threshold.

None of the three face the same political pressures as the red-state Democrats running for re-election, making it easier for them to oppose the bill. Johnson is retiring and Nelson and Coons come from less conservative states.

In a statement, Johnson said, "the recent Nebraska Supreme Court decision that invalidates the pipeline's route through Nebraska has created significant uncertainty at the state and federal level."

An aide to Coons said the senator is "frustrated with how long it's taking for a decision to be made, but he doesn't think it's Congress' role to be issuing construction permits."

And an aide to Nelson said while the senator supports the Keystone pipeline, he wants to pass an accompanying law ensuring the oil that goes through it is used at home and not exported.

As to the other three Democratic senators who voted in favor of last year's measure, only Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania said he would support the current bill.

An aide to Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado wouldn't say which way he would vote. An aide to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, said the senator is still deciding how he will vote.

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Filed under: Keystone XL • Senate
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. mary

    Good.. And I hope it keeps failing.. This is the dirtiest oil there is. And the pipeline runs over a major aquifer, one that Americans need, if we are to produce enough food in the United States.
    These things took millions of years to form. And can be destroyed in a heartbeat.
    We already have Japan's Fukushima melt down, destroying the pacific ocean and wreaking havoc on all things living, and that has no end in sight.
    How long can we continue to let major corporations abuse our resources so they can make money?
    We can't drink oil. And even if we could use it to get out of town, we can't use it to get off this planet.
    Water is more important.

    May 5, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  2. Daniel

    Wow only 1 major oil pipeline leak in 40 years, why are liberals so against giving people jobs, why do you hate the unemployed?

    May 5, 2014 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  3. Serious Truth

    Sure, vote against it. We need to keep sending money to the middle east. Too bad everyone can't work at Google or as a consultant to an environmental group. Some of us need our cars to get to work to make the food & products the "environmentalists" take for granted. Back to nature you say? It takes 100 acres of irrigated land to support 1 person. Try the math on that one. Very easy to say oil is bad. But environmentalists never talk about reducing the population to a point where oil can be removed from use. Limited facts and scare tactics seem to be the only solution they can present. Looking forward to the starvation as the population grows and we limit energy to this country.

    May 5, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Drill baby Drill , Frack Baby Frack !

    May 5, 2014 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  5. billbfit

    More jobs and energy independence flushed down the drain. Seems to be Obama's only expertise.

    May 5, 2014 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  6. empathy4us

    Just because someone has a talking point that says jobs will be created, does not make it so. There is little evidence that many jobs will be created beyond those to build the pipeline (and only about 3000 direct construction jobs will be created to actually build the pipeline – and those go away once its built).

    May 5, 2014 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  7. snowdogg

    "A congressional effort to bypass the White House and approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline appears likely to fizzle this week"

    And that is a GOOD thing.

    May 5, 2014 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. okiejoe

    For 'The Real Truth' - I know what to do with the sludge left after refining that stuff: ship it back to Canada and dump it on the front porch of the Canadian oil company that is pushing this disaster. It only seems fair.

    As for jobs created, there will be hundreds of clean-up crews required to take care of leaks.

    May 5, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. August

    Unless a better independent possibility comes along...I'm pushing for the repubs to take enough seats to get rid of this dem group of nation destroyers. They're doing noting but killing our economy and blaming everyone else. Similar to barney Frank and his cohorts. Now he's carefully out of the picture and the blame is being placed elsewhere.

    May 5, 2014 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. Albertan

    Canada should NOT be exporting its energy cheaply to the USA. The crude oil from Alberta is sold at a steep discount. If Canadians had any brains we would refine it in Canada and export the finished product at world prices to the rest of the world.
    As for the Enviro clap trap argument I'm sure that California and Venezuela have very clean carbon free light than air crude.

    May 5, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. don in albuquerque

    California– Have you read how many jobs this will create in the long term. Obviously you have not.

    May 5, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. Dean

    Is there anything that the leaders in government do that is not political? They surely do nothing for the good of the people.

    May 5, 2014 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  13. derekreidy

    Good. Boehner doesn't want to bring the extended unemployment to the floor... then too bad for your pipeline. Sorry Koch Brothers.. no corporate welfare for you today.

    May 5, 2014 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  14. Penguin

    Ironic how conservatives view making Clive Bundy pay to graze his cattle on public land is government overreach, but, somehow, taking someone's private property for an oil pipeline is just fine. The hypocrisy of our legislators never ceases too amaze me

    May 5, 2014 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  15. janelle

    Sure Harry, you keep on thinking you are some kind of brilliant strategist. Come November when you are no longer Senate Majority Leader you'll be scratching your arse trying to figure out what the heck happened.

    May 5, 2014 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. ted

    To allow keystone would be inviting an environmental disaster. The tar sands need a lot more energy to refine which means pollution at the refinery. There is a pipeline now – use it. And there will not be grand job growth. This is a political thing.

    May 5, 2014 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  17. TLORop

    The keystone pipeline was a bad idea from the start. It will cause long term damage to the environment, do nothing to lower fuel prices and increase carbon pollution in North America, all for a few thousand temporary jobs which will most likely go to mostly Canadians.

    May 5, 2014 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  18. dave

    There's nothing in the Keystone for Americans, we just allow more foreigners to use our land, risk huge pollution, and we continue to get gouged at the gas pump. Supply and demand has little to do with oil/gas prices, it's all politics. They could have a huge abundance of gas, and still the price would be oulandish for gas at the pump. As far as jobs, it's technology, it will eliminate millions of jobs, all the truckers, those working for the railways, probably more in support and maintenance. What few jobs it would create for construction would only be temporary, lasting until the completion. Encouraging more oil use just puts the economy in more jeopardy, encourages Putin, and his war, our best bet is to go with more alternative energy projects, in the trillions, and effort that would make the Manhatten project look like a tinker toy project. That would be millions in jobs, and a huge investment in infrastructure, making oil obsolete, even saving the Planet.

    May 5, 2014 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  19. rokbuck

    It serves no purpose to reject Keystone XL. The oil will go to market, either by the XL, by rail or by a different pipeline to the Canadian coast. If it does not come through the US it will go directly to foreign markets. Even if destined for foreign market if pumped through XL, at least it would employ people to build and maintain the line as well as any refineries or ports needed. If the oil goes directly to China, it will increase their supply resulting in lower prices for them while reducing our supply increasing prices for us. Why is that a good thing for the US?

    May 5, 2014 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  20. BADGUY

    WHEN....not IF...the XL pipeline springs a leak..it COULD pollute the drinking water for 6 States. WHO is going to pay to fix THAT problem? The pipeline plan... MUST be MOVED to a different route. The current route is just TOO DANGEROUS!

    May 5, 2014 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  21. Canadian Clausewitz

    Take it through the pipe or take it over the tracks and roads and have rail cars and trucks blow up all over America. That's your choice. US environmentalists say Canada is going to destroy the planet when the US is the second largest emitter on the face of the earth and exports zillions of tons of coal to dozens of nations. Hypocrites. By rail, truck or pipe. Your choice. But it's coming one way or another.

    May 5, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  22. john

    Americans are such short sighted hypocrites,for decades Saudi oil was transported across the oceans with great risks to the environment in other peoples back yards.Now that it has to be transported by pipeline across your own lands ,it's a different story.There will come a day when you will need this oil and the pipeline won't be there,to bloody bad.

    May 5, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  23. tvelection

    The solution is for the Canadian PM to seek to have refineries built in Canada. If those who want to utilize the the sand crude would pursue that then all this effort about a pipeline through the US would be unecessary. The question is, why hasn't that been done?

    May 5, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  24. Nick

    There are NO jobs. Unless you consider 50 jobs being fought over by 10,000 people an employment boom. I have been a Republican all my life, and I cannot sit here and listen to you people talk about the jobs that Keystone is supposed to bring when there are none. Get It Straight, THERE ARE NO JOBS coming out of the Keystone pipeline. If there was, I would be on board right now, I mean RIGHT NOW!, but there aint. Its a lie to try and get this thing through and it pisses me off that good Americans that want to work, are being lied to by Rex Tillerson and EXXONMOBILE. If you are a republican like me, dig down and find out the truth. They are lying to us because after they get it through, "Who cares if they throw rocks at us because we lied, we're rich!"

    May 5, 2014 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  25. marjee123

    If it does fail the Koch Bros who have 2/3 interest in the company will have a couple of hizzy fits.

    May 5, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
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