Mica: ‘Great progress’ on including Keystone pipeline in highway bill

A top member of the House-Senate team forging a compromise transportation bill sounded optimistic notes Thursday about including construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the measure.

“I think the Keystone pipeline is making great progress from what I have heard ... as far as its acceptance into what we may do as a final bill,” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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The House-approved version of the transportation programs funding bill includes a provision for construction of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Senate version of the bill omits the provision and advocates of the controversial pipeline face a number of hurdles.

Only one of the Senate Democratic negotiators — who outnumber their Senate GOP counterparts 8-6 — voted in favor of a failed amendment in March to include Keystone in that chamber’s bill.

But Mica responded to a question about the unfavorable split by suggesting that the support for Keystone in the Senate may be more influential as the talks continue.

“Well the magic number is to get to 60 [Senate votes] and ... we are at 58 over there, so you just work it,” Mica said.

The GOP’s proposal to greenlight a cross-border permit for Keystone attracted 56 votes in March, four shy of the 60 needed, and 11 Democrats joined the Republican supporters of the amendment.

Backers, however, see a floor of 58 supporters because Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) were absent from the March vote.