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 PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Reddit hires first lobbyists Senate panel approves bill compelling researchers to ‘hack’ DHS 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.

ADVERTISEMENT
Sen. Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Dem senator pitches ideas for gun control after shooting 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to allow an open amendment process for the Keystone bill to give members more input.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill 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 WhitehouseDem senator: 'How many lives must be lost before we act?' Sen. Manchin won’t vote for Trump’s mine safety nominee Overnight Regulation: SEC chief grilled over hack | Dems urge Labor chief to keep Obama overtime rule | Russia threatens Facebook over data storage law 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. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGun proposal picks up GOP support Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (D-Ill.) on the transportation of petroleum coke.

Also added to the queue were three Republican amendments: One, from Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong The Hill's 12:30 Report Breitbart charts path for 2018 midterm races MORE (R-Neb.), would limit the designation of new national monuments. Another, from Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed Overnight Regulation: Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act for Puerto Rico | Bill would exempt some banks from Dodd-Frank | Senators unveil driverless car bill 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.