Senators eye options to push Keystone decision

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said Keystone XL advocates in the Senate have nearly enough votes to push through legislation that would set a hard deadline for President Obama to make a decision on the project.

Lawmakers are ready to pursue multiple options to push a decision on the pipeline, following the release of the State Department's final environmental review of the $5.4 billion project.

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The environmental analysis, released on Friday, said Keystone XL would not significantly add to greenhouse gas emissions, prompting a call for "no more excuses" from advocates of the pipeline.

And to stop further delays, Hoeven and other lawmakers might propose legislation that would create a deadline for a decision.

"The key is to have 60 votes, so if negotiating that timeline makes it happen, then I'm going to leave it open," said Hoeven, adding more than 55 lawmakers have committed to voting on a deadline measure.

Hoeven also said the measure could get a boost if Obama turned down a timeline for Keystone XL.

"If he didn't honor the timeline, or if he turned it down, that would create the impetus for Congress to approve it," Hoeven said at a press conference on Keystone with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer and union leaders.

A meeting between Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Feb. 19, might also put pressure on Obama to set a timeline for approving the project, Hoeven said.

Another option, Hoeven said, is to attach approval of the project to the debt ceiling.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), however, said there has been no discussion to tie Keystone XL to the debt ceiling on the House side.

"I can say from the House side there is no discussion about attaching or moving anything until 90 days is up," Terry said at a Keystone XL press conference on Tuesday, referring to the roughly three-month interagency review by the State Department, which will weigh the national interest of the project.

"Anything is possible, but there are no discussions occurring."

If the Senate were to pass an increase in the debt ceiling with a measure approving the pipeline first, Hoeven said he "absolutely" thinks the House would be willing to revisit it.

"We have to show we can get it through on the Senate side," Hoeven said. "They'd pass it immediately if we got it through on the Senate side."

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a strong proponent of Keystone XL, said she is open to whatever needs to be done to get the pipeline built.

Landrieu told reporters at the Keystone press conference the Senate would try to act in concert as much as possible with the House but said support for Keystone XL is growing.

"Support in the Senate is broad and deep and growing," Landrieu said on Tuesday.