Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) needled red-state Democrats for having little influence in pushing Keystone XL on Wednesday, reigniting a Senate floor battle over the controversial oil pipeline.
“These Senate Democrats just can’t stop boasting about how much supposed influence they have on energy issues. But it’s a really baffling claim to the rest of us, because it’s hard to point to what they’ve actually accomplished,” McConnell said on the floor.
But McConnell argued that vulnerable incumbents such as Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who support the pipeline, have lacked the juice to make legislative progress on Keystone XL.
“When it comes right down to it, they haven’t even been able to secure a serious, gimmick-free floor vote from the majority leader to approve the Keystone pipeline,” McConnell said.
He criticized centrist Democrats who support Keystone XL for standing by passively, when a group of Republicans tried Tuesday to call up a bill sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Landrieu that would approve the controversial pipeline.
“They can’t credibly claim to have influence on issues like these even as they let their party leaders shoot down almost every effort to achieve the things they claim to want — like Keystone,” McConnell said.
“Frankly, it’s hard to see how we could ever hope to get a Keystone bill over to the president’s desk and signed into law while Democrats run the Senate,” he added.
McConnell’s floor statement drew an irritated response from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who reminded colleagues that he offered Republicans a deal earlier this year, an up-or-down vote on the pipeline in exchange for an up-or-down vote on energy efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
“The Republican leader keeps misdirecting things. We can have a vote on Keystone. That was part of the deal we made,” Reid said.
He reiterated his proposal to set up a vote on the pipeline in exchange for a vote on Shaheen-Portman.
“Why can’t we just have vote on both of those, energy efficiency and on Keystone?” he asked.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) rejected that offer because it would not guarantee Republicans the chance to offer amendments to Shaheen-Portman.
“The way in which the majority leader is running the floor and calling up legislation preventing amendments to be offered, to be debated, to be voted upon, denies the rights not only of us as senators but ignores the voices of the people we represent,” he said.