Senate Foreign Relations chairman backpedals on Keystone XL hearing

Menendez’s change in tone on a possible hearing comes after a majority of the Senate endorsed TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline.

Sixty-two senators, including 17 Democrats, backed Keystone last month in a vote on an amendment to the nonbinding Senate Democrat budget plan. The vote was designed to pressure President Obama into approving the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which requires a cross-border permit from the White House.

Two of the Democrats that voted in favor — Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.) and Chris Coons (Del.) — are members of the Foreign Relations Committee. Coons, however, quickly distanced himself from the vote.

The potential Foreign Relations Committee hearing would shed more light on a March State Department report that said TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline would not accelerate oil sands production or significantly raise greenhouse gas emissions.

That satisfied Keystone's business and largely Republican supporters. They used it to press President Obama to swiftly approve a cross-border permit for the project.

Foggy Bottom's findings alarmed some Democrats — including Menendez — as well as green and progressive groups. They said they had questions about the State Department's process.

— This story was updated at 2:37 p.m.