Keystone pipeline supporters nearing filibuster-proof majority

Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are close, really close, to nailing down a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and a GOP victory on Tuesday is what will likely get them there.

Republicans are optimistic that binding legislation approving the controversial pipeline can garner 60 votes in the Senate after Tuesday’s election.

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Right now, without any changes, Keystone supporters have a total of 57 votes in the Senate.

If the six easiest GOP pickups go its way, the party will gain the majority, and add another two votes to its Keystone tally, hitting 59.

After that, the GOP would only need a pickup in Colorado or Iowa to get to 60.

“It is definitely going to be a tough push, but we are confident we will have enough votes in the Senate when we take over,” a top Republican Senate aide told The Hill on Tuesday.

In fact, Republicans appear confident Colorado and Iowa will both go to them, putting the vote count at 61, the aide said.

On top of that, the Republican aide said, the party thinks there is a strong chance lawmakers like Sens. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit Pompeo headed for confirmation after surprise panel vote Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel MORE (D-Del.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperEPA security chief worked for tabloid owner linked to Trump: report Overnight Energy: Pruitt proposes rule targeting 'secret science' | Dems probe Pruitt's security chief | FAA bill provisions could strip endangered species protections Senators fume over fight to change rules for Trump's nominees MORE (D-Del.) will back the oil sands pipeline this time around, noting election-year politics for earlier hesitancy.

The aide also said Republicans are “absolutely” confident when it comes to Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyRand's reversal advances Pompeo Vulnerable Senate Dems have big cash advantages Pompeo faces pivotal vote MORE’s (D-Pa.) continued support of the pipeline if a binding vote comes forward.

In May, Casey was the only Democrat from a Republican-leaning state to back a bill that would have approved the $5.4 billion project, but a deal to bring the bill to the floor crumbled.

The push will undoubtedly be met with opposition and, despite the Republicans' strong chances of taking control of the Senate, greens are confident any legislation to approve the pipeline, or circumvent the president, will fail.

Jamie Henn, co-founder and communications director for 350.org, said climate activists won’t focus too much on trying to flip Democrats like Casey, instead applying all their pressure on Obama.

“If Obama approves the pipeline it would be a real blow to his legacy on climate, he has a lot to lose in terms of his outgoing reputation. He has been very clear he wants to have a strong legacy on climate change,” he said.

Henn added that greens are confident Obama will veto any pipeline bill that comes to his desk from Congress, and isn’t worried about a GOP takeover.

“No matter which way it goes it won’t be so bad,” Henn said. “We are itching to get back in the fight.”

Still, a Republican majority in both chambers bent on pushing through binding legislation that approves the Alberta-to-Gulf pipeline could cause headaches for the president.

On Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said passing Keystone is the No. 2 priority for a Senate under the GOP control.

“I actually think the president will sign the bill on the Keystone pipeline because I think the pressure — he’s going to be boxed in on that, and I think it’s going to happen,” Priebus said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”

Here’s a breakdown of the states Keystone supporters need to flip in order to get to the filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, applying pressure on President Obama.


TIER 1: The six easiest pickups for GOP

Alaska
Needed for GOP majority, but will not change pipeline vote count. Recent polling puts Republican Dan Sullivan ahead of Sen. 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 (D), but both parties are cautious as the state is tough to poll.

Arkansas
Rep. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDOJ probing Huawei over possible sanctions violations: report The Hill's Morning Report - Lawsuits, investigations send Trump on Twitter tirade GOP senator: Democratic opposition to Pompeo 'driven 100 percent by politics' MORE defeated Sen. 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 (D). Will not change pipeline vote count.

Louisiana
Will not change pipeline vote count. The race is going to a December runoff.

Montana
Rep. Steve Daines (R) won. Will not change pipeline vote count.

South Dakota
Gov. Mike Rounds (R) won, putting Keystone vote count at 58.

West Virginia
Republican Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP anxiety grows over Trump’s Iran decision Overnight Health Care: Trump's VA pick on the ropes | White House signals it will fight for nominee | Senate panel approves opioid bill | FDA cracking down on e-cig sales to kids Senate panel to vote next month on maternal mortality bill MORE won, putting Keystone vote count at 59.


TIER 2: Only one more

If Republicans pick up all of the previous six seats, they will just need one more from this tier to reach 60 — two to get to 61, which provides a bit of a cushion for any future Keystone vote.

Colorado
Rep. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenators fume over fight to change rules for Trump's nominees Poll: Almost two-thirds of Texas voters support legal recreational marijuana House, Senate GOP compete for cash MORE (R) won, putting the Keystone vote count at 60.

Iowa
Republican Joni Ernst won, putting Keystone vote count at 61.

Michigan
If GOP wins pipeline supporters gain one vote. Here, however, Democrat Rep. Gary Peters is a big favorite. The likelihood of Keystone supporters winning here is slim.


TIER 3: The outlier

Kansas
Keystone supporters could lose one vote if Independent Greg Orman, who is running a tough race against Republican Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor Senate passes resolution allowing Duckworth to bring baby on floor Kill off anti-environmental excesses in the farm bill MORE, wins. Orman has yet to say whether he supports the pipeline.

In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month, Orman said he would support Keystone “if it truly has no net environmental impact,” hinting that he is likely to vote against the oil sands project.