OPIOID SERIES:

Senate Democrats press Obama to give Keystone the green light soon

A group of Senate Democrats is urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline by the end of next month, saying the process "has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify."

The letter, spearheaded by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible MORE (D-La.), who faces a tough reelection bid this year, requests that Obama set a hard deadline for Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryNorth Korea is moved by Pompeo diplomacy, but Dems dig in deeper Ex-Obama official Marie Harf, Guy Benson to co-host Fox News Radio show Five things to know about Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska MORE to make his national interest determination. [READ THE LETTER.]

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The senators also press Obama to set a timeline for himself and to make a final decision on the pipeline by May 31. 

That deadline would give Obama a few weeks to decide the fate of Keystone, which would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf refineries.  

Right now, the State Department is winding down its interagency review, which is expected to wrap up in early May. Kerry would then need to make his recommendation to Obama, leaving the rest to him.  

"We need a definitive timeline laid out, a timeline that reduces the comment period for federal agencies, officials and other entities. A timeline that requires Secretary Kerry to present you with his national interest determination shortly after the comment and consultation period ends. This decision must not drag on into the summer," the letter sent to the White House Thursday morning states.

“This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope,” the 11 Democrats wrote. “It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries.”

It's no surprise Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Warner (Va.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE Ark.), and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska), who all face reelection this year, signed the letter. All have previously expressed their adamant support of the $5.4 billion project.

While Democratic control of the Senate could ride on these races, Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said no one move by the White House on any issue would make or break her reelection chances.

Still, if Obama were to agree to a hard timeline for the process, Landrieu could give herself a little credit for it, which would be received well in her home state.

“From my perspective, there is no downside to approving the Keystone pipeline,” Landrieu told The Hill last week. “I’ve been urging [Obama] to do so for literally two years."

Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump eyes Cold War statute to keep coal burning: report Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea MORE (W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and John Walsh (Mont.) make up the remaining five Democrats who signed the letter.