Senate panel sets vote on Keystone bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will vote on legislation Wednesday that would approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The committee is expected to easily approve the bill, which is co-sponsored by Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

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Landrieu, who is facing a tough reelection battle this year, originally offered the bill last month to be voted on in conjunction with energy efficiency legislation taken up by the Senate. But the effort collapsed amid a larger fight over floor procedure.

On Wednesday, the committee will tackle the legislation, a Landrieu aide confirmed. All Republicans on the committee, Landrieu, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are expected to vote for the bill.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who also sits on the committee, has received pressure from industry to pick a side on Keystone, especially with his reelection around the corner.

Udall, however, plans to vote against the bill Wednesday.

"If the Keystone XL pipeline were being routed through our state, Coloradans would want to know the decision was being made on the merits — and not congressional meddling," Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said in an email. "That's why Sen. Udall intends to again reject the notion that lawmakers know better than the engineers, scientists and experts whose responsibility it is to evaluate the pipeline application on its merits."

A committee vote on the oil-sands pipeline would bode well for Landrieu, who will be able to use it to push back against accusations from her challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), that as Energy chairwoman she has done little for their home state. 

The Republican National Committee (RNC) took no time in slamming Landrieu for scheduling what they are calling a "show vote" on the Keystone pipeline.

"Victory is a shovel in the dirt building the pipeline, not a show vote in committee," RNC spokesman Ben Voelkel said in a statement Thursday. "If she can’t be expected to convince the president or even her own party leaders to advance the Keystone Pipeline, what is Mary Landrieu supposed to be doing as the indispensable Senator she claims to be?"

Landrieu has made clear where she stand on Keystone XL, and has been a staunch advocate of building the project.

Still, approving the pipeline in committee won't increase the changes of it making to the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) opposes the project, and will not want to open up other vulnerable Democrats facing midterms to a vote on the high-profile pipeline.