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Keystone at Senate tipping point
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are stuck at 59 votes - one vote shy of the supermajority they need to move their bill forward on Tuesday.
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Monday that they would vote against moving forward with the legislation, making it unclear whether supporters had a path to the magic number of 60.
Rockefeller had appeared to be one of the last possible converts Monday evening, and supporters were pressuring the retiring senator to join their side.
But he told reporters on Monday that he was firmly against the proposed pipeline: "I'll be voting 'no,' " he said.
Every Republican in the Senate is expected to back the measure, and 10 Democrats have signed on to legislation that Landrieu is sponsoring, along with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have also promised Landrieu that they will vote in favor of the pipeline, which would carry fuel from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast.
That gives Landrieu a firm 59 votes, but it's not enough to move forward.
With Rockefeller a "no," the best hope for Landrieu might be Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who told reporters on Monday that he is leaning against the measure.
Noting that he could be a pivotal vote, King also said of the roll call vote on Tuesday: "Wait till they get to the Ks."
Sen. Chris Coons, who was previously considered a firm "no" on the Keystone vote has been talking to Landrieu about the bill.
"He cares for Senator Landrieu a lot, so he's listening to what she has to say," Coon's spokesman Ian Koski said in an email Monday evening.
"But I have no reason to believe his position has changed," Koski added.Landrieu remained adamant on Monday evening that she had the 60 votes.
When asked if the count was stuck at 59, Landrieu said: "It's not."
She said Monday that she has the 60 votes.
"I feel very comfortable...it could be more," she said of the vote count reaching past the 60 needed.
Asked who the last vote is, Landrieu winked at reporters as she boarded a Senate elevator.
Hoeven also "believes we'll have 60, possibly 61 votes," his spokesman Don Canton said Monday night.
Senate Democrats agreed to Tuesday's vote as a gift to Landrieu, who hopes that a victory will send the politically charged bill to President Obama's desk and lift her to a victory in her run-off election against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who also backs the pipeline.
Landrieu is a decided underdog in the December race, and the Keystone vote is seen as a last-ditch effort to save her seat after a disastrous midterm election cycle for Senate Democrats. If the vote fails, it could be a final nail in her political coffin.
Energy groups on Monday projected a confident tone, insisting they'd win Tuesday's vote.
American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said he "fully expects at least 60 votes" to be cast in favor of the crude oil pipeline.
"This is the first real test for the White House and Democrats in terms of whether they are working together with Republicans," Gerard said in an interview. "This is an easy one compared to ObamaCare, this ought to be one of the easy ones."
Green groups opposed to the measure also sounded a confident note even as they worked overtime to prevent supporters from reaching the magic 60.
Environmentalists held rallies on Monday outside of Carper's and Bennet's offices, telling them a "yes" to the project would mean "game over" for a safe climate.
Climate activist group 350.org targeted Landrieu as well, protesting the vote outside her Washington, D.C., home by laying an inflatable pipeline across her front yard.
Melinda Pierce, deputy director of national campaigns for the Sierra Club, said she did not believe Landrieu would get to 60.
"But we aren't taking anyone for granted," she added. "Even though many of folks she may be going after have said 'no' in the past, we are making sure they continue to say 'no.'"
The House has already voted to approve the legislation under consideration in the Senate.
On Friday, in a 252-161 vote, 32 Democrats joined Republicans in backing the measure.
Even if the legislation is approved by the Senate, however, it is likely to be vetoed by Obama.
He said last week that lawmakers should not "short-circuit" the federal review of the pipeline that is already underway.
"I've been clear in the past. ... My position hasn't changed, that this is a process that is supposed to be followed," Obama said at a press conference in Burma.
If the Senate does not move forward with Keystone, the upper chamber is likely to try again in January, when Republicans take over the majority. At that point, the question could become whether there are enough votes in the Senate to override an Obama veto.
Republicans will have at least 53 members in the new Senate, with a 54th possible if Landrieu is defeated by Cassidy.
"You can rest assured that this issue will not go away and that the president will have to deal with it," Gerard said on Monday.
"The public will be looking closely at these votes," he added.
This story was updated at 7:07 p.m. and 9:51 p.m.