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 GardnerOvernight Defense: Senate rejects new FBI surveillance powers | Brexit vote looms | Push for new military aid deal with Israel Senators push vote to condemn Russia's 'reckless actions' Senate rejects gun control background check measures MORE (Colo.) and Joni Ernst (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 Priebus 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.”