Reid: Keystone XL vote coming

In March, the Senate endorsed the Canada-to-Texas pipeline in a nonbinding amendment to the Senate Democratic budget. That measure garnered 62 supporters, 17 of which were Democrats — though some downplayed their votes.

The controversial oil sands project is under federal review at the State Department. Its builder, TransCanada Corp., needs a cross-border permit from the White House to complete Keystone’s northern leg.

Reid hinted a vote would happen because Republicans have been insistent on it.

"I would assume they would offer amendments any time they want," Reid said.

He said the GOP's push for a Keystone vote has held up other efforts, referencing comprehensive energy efficiency legislation sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The bill's path to the floor has faced obstacles because of disagreements on amendments. That's similar to last year, when Democrats and Republicans alike derailed it because they wanted to tack messaging bills to the legislation.

“I have tried to get it on the floor. I tried to do it before immigration,” Reid said. “The Tea Party-driven House — and, frankly, Senate — makes it very difficult.”

The bill, which has support from industry, labor and green groups, would encourage the adoption of energy savings technologies and techniques at residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

Still, Reid said the bill could end up being a vehicle for a Keystone vote. That could represent a turn from last year, in which several Senate aides have said attempts to add a attach Keystone amendment was one of the many factors that sunk the bill.

“It would be more appropriate and perhaps even germane or relevant” as an amendment to Shaheen-Portman than immigration, he said.

Republicans, centrist Democrats, industry groups and some unions want Keystone built because they say it would provide jobs and strengthen energy security. But many Democrats and liberal and green organizations worry the pipeline would exacerbate climate change by facilitating production of carbon-heavy oil sands.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who sponsored the Keystone amendment to the Senate budget plan, has Keystone legislation ready to go.

It's similar to a bill the GOP-House has already passed — and that's already earned a veto threat from the White House.

The measure would allow TransCanada to finish Keystone without a permit from President Obama.

Hoeven has indicated he would consider pushing the bill as a standalone measure, or filing it as an amendment to energy efficiency legislation that’s waiting for floor time.

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