GOP has votes to pass Keystone

GOP has votes to pass Keystone
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Republican gains in the Senate have given Keystone XL oil pipeline supporters a filibuster-proof majority to pass a bill approving construction of the controversial pipeline.

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Before Tuesday’s election, supporters had 57 votes in the Senate in support of Keystone, including a dozen Democrats. After Republicans picked up seven Senate seats (and counting) in Tuesday's election, the vote count for Keystone had ballooned to 61.

GOP Sens.-elect Mike Rounds (S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday GOP senators eager for Romney to join them Gardner: Bipartisan DACA solution possible despite Trump's 's---hole countries' comment MORE (Colo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstIowa voters laugh after GOP senator says Trump is standing up for Norway Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response Family caregivers need a voice in our political debate MORE (Iowa) are all Keystone backers.

"The election of several pro-Keystone Senators puts the passage of Keystone that much closer and shows energy projects like Keystone is a priority for our country," Ryan Bernstein, Sen. John Hoeven's (R-N.D.) chief of staff, told The Hill on Wednesday.

"We will be working with Sen. [Mitch] McConnell (R-Ky.) to get a vote on the floor shortly after the new Congress is seated," Bernstein added.

A Republican Senate could pass a clean Keystone bill outright or tether approval of the oil sands pipeline to a must-pass spending bill or broader energy package. The latter would make it harder for President Obama to veto the pipeline.

Republicans wouldn't appear to have a veto-proof majority if Obama rejects the pipeline. 

But they are getting close to 67 votes, suggesting that if they could woo a few more Democrats to their side, such as Sens. Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.) or Bill Nelson (Fla.), they could get there.

Republicans believe that in his final two years in office, Obama might just approve Keystone if a bill hits his desk.

“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,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony Overnight Cybersecurity: House votes to renew NSA spying | Trump tweets spark confusion | Signs Russian hackers are targeting Olympics | Bannon expected to appear before House Intel panel Bannon to appear before House committee for Russia probe: report MORE said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”

Obama has been under significant pressure from green groups to reject the pipeline, and there have been repeated executive delays that have put off a final decision. 

Given GOP gains in the Senate, environmental groups opposed to the pipeline say they will step up their efforts even more.

“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,” said Jamie Henn of 350.org. "We are itching to get back in the fight.”