By Laura Barron-Lopez - 11/04/14 06:08 PM EST
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.
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 CoonsChris CoonsElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (D-Del.) and Tom CarperTom CarperElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Healthcare: McConnell unveils new Zika package | Manchin defends daughter on EpiPens | Bill includes M for opioid crisis Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare 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 CaseyBob CaseyOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform No GOP leaders attending Shimon Peres funeral Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP 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
Needed for GOP majority, but will not change pipeline vote count. Recent polling puts Republican Dan Sullivan ahead of Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichRyan's victory trumps justice reform opponents There is great responsibility being in the minority Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (D), but both parties are cautious as the state is tough to poll.
Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions Opposition to Obama's radical disarmament agenda has proven effective Fears mount that Obama will change course on Israel in final months MORE defeated Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (D). Will not change pipeline vote count.
Will not change pipeline vote count. The race is going to a December runoff.
Rep. Steve Daines (R) won. Will not change pipeline vote count.
Gov. Mike Rounds (R) won, putting Keystone vote count at 58.
Republican Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoOvernight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security Senate committee to consider miner pension bill GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase 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.
Rep. Cory GardnerCory GardnerState official hints more Chinese firms being probed for N. Korean ties GOP senators ask watchdog to examine Gitmo site surveys spending GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase MORE (R) won, putting the Keystone vote count at 60.
Republican Joni Ernst won, putting Keystone vote count at 61.
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
Keystone supporters could lose one vote if Independent Greg Orman, who is running a tough race against Republican Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP senators ask watchdog to examine Gitmo site surveys spending Senate panel approves pension rescue for coal miners Congress set for Saudi showdown with Obama 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.