Keystone marathon begins in Senate

The Senate on Tuesday began what is expected to be a weeks-long debate over the Keystone XL pipeline by holding a trio of amendment votes.

Out of the three amendments proposed, only one — Republican Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanCongress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Senators push for possible FCC enforcement over Lifeline fraud The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over MORE's (Ohio) trimmed down version of an energy efficiency bill — passed, in a 95-4 vote.

Two other amendments proposed by Democrats — one that would have banned the export of oil shipped through the Canada-to-Texas pipeline and another that would have required the project be built with U.S. steel — were killed by the Senate.

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Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenate Dem: Trump has to stop ‘reckless’ language on North Korea Trump sparks debate over war resolution for North Korea Foreign Relations Dem: North Korea is the modern-day Cuban missile crisis MORE (D-Mass.) slammed Republicans, claiming they "blocked" his amendment on oil exports and used a procedural move to “table” the amendment and halt debate.

Republicans shot back that a motion to table simply means the Senate as a whole doesn't think the amendment should get a vote.

The confusion pointed to the difficulty senators might have in transitioning back to “regular order,” where legislation is amended on the floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to allow an open amendment process for the Keystone bill to give members more input.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states Trump's Democratic tax dilemma Manchin eyed as potential pick for Energy secretary: report MORE (D-W.Va.), a co-sponsor of the underlying Keystone bill, said he didn't mind having votes to table amendments.

"It is the first time we have got to vote very much since I have been here in four years, so the vote to table something is a vote," Manchin told reporters.

Senators on Tuesday agreed to take up another six amendments, with votes set to begin Wednesday.

Democrats offered two climate change-related amendments. One of them, from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), says climate change is real and significantly caused by humans. The second, from Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseAmerican horses deserve safety, and the SAFE Act Lawmakers target horse meat trade Dems introduce legislation to protect manned aircraft from drones MORE (D-R.I.), simply states that,“"climate change is real and not a hoax."

Schatz said the amendments are about "laying down a predicate that asks people what side of basic science and facts they are on."

Republicans are broadly skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change, arguing the extent to which it is caused by human activity is overstated.

Democrats in response have taken to labeling the GOP a party of “climate deniers” and say Republicans will pay the price at the ballot box in 2016 for their stance.

"There's an opportunity for a moderate, science-oriented Republican to show some courage, and vote in the way that they know reflects the facts, even if it may cause them difficulty in the primary election," Schatz said.

The next series of votes also includes an amendment offered by Sen. Richard DurbinDick DurbinOPINION | DACA helps people achieve the American dream, don't take it away Immigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP 'Dreamers' deadline looms for Trump MORE (D-Ill.) on the transportation of petroleum coke.

Also added to the queue were three Republican amendments: One, from Sen. Deb FischerDeb FischerSenators eye ticket fee to overhaul airports Lobbying World Congress must stop the assault on taxpayer-friendly freight railroads MORE (R-Neb.), would limit the designation of new national monuments. Another, from Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeTrouble draining the swamp? Try returning power to the states Congress must act to protect data privacy before courts make surveillance even easier Five tough decisions for the GOP on healthcare MORE (R-Utah), would restrict fees paid to plaintiffs in endangered species suits. The last amendment, from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), deals with coal refuse power plants. 

— This story was updated at 7:25 p.m.