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56 senators back new Keystone bill

 


Keystone XL supporters on Thursday introduced legislation they said was backed by 56 senators that would immediately greenlight the controversial oil pipeline.

"I have 56 hard yeses," Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senate GOP opposition grows to objecting to Electoral College results Man charged with criminal mischief for allegedly vandalizing senator's office with ax MORE (R-N.D.), who introduced the bill with Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (D-La.), told reporters Thursday.

"Beyond that I've got six or seven maybes. Our challenge is going to be to get to 60 votes," he said.

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Eleven Democrats are among the 56 senators backing the bill, which would immediately give pipeline developer TransCanada the green light on a permit to begin construction of Keystone XL, according to a release from Landrieu's office.

Democrats discussed the issue during a meeting on Thursday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS MORE (D-Nev.) expressed optimism a deal would be reached to allow a vote.

"There's a 70-80 percent chance we can work something out on Keystone," he said Thursday. 

Earlier this week, Reid said he wanted to bring an energy efficiency bill to the floor, but Republicans are trying to have a larger debate on energy issues.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Kentucky Republican committee rejects resolution urging McConnell to condemn Trump impeachment Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack MORE (Ky.) said Republicans aren't interested in a nonbinding sense-of-the-Senate vote on Keystone, which would not have any legal effect. The Senate voted on a similar nonbinding measure last year.

Hoeven said the vote on the Keystone bill won't be tossed aside.



"This is not something that is going to be delayed," Hoeven said. "It either has to be a part of the energy efficiency bill, or immediately following it."

Hoeven said he doesn't expect an agreement to be reached on a Keystone vote before the energy efficiency bill hits the Senate floor next week.

And while Republican leaders have said they would rather see a Keystone XL amendment than a stand-alone vote, Hoeven said he doesn't think its a "deal-breaker."

Landrieu says she wants a vote on stand-alone legislation, and seemed adamant Thursday that anything else was out of the question.

"The decision has already been made — we are moving forward on a vote on Keystone, and we are going to move forward on the energy efficiency bill," Landrieu said.



The bill will likely get severe pushback from the White House, Hoeven said.



“That is exactly what happened before,” he said. “At that time, we had more than 60 votes. By the time they were done, they actually pushed us down below 60. I don’t know if they’ve started that effort yet.”

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Keystone proponents would need another four Democrats to sign on to the bill to reach a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes. They will likely focus on attracting Delaware’s Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE and Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda MORE, and Sens. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Georgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests MORE (Fla.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetTop Democrat pushes for tying unemployment insurance to economic conditions 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Build trust in vaccines by investing in community workers MORE (Colo.), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter JohnsonCornell to launch new bipartisan publication led by former Rep. Steve Israel Trump faces tough path to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac overhaul Several hurt when truck runs into minimum wage protesters in Michigan MORE (S.D.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE (Penn.).

But congressional sources told The Hill that Nelson and Johnson would vote no on a binding Keystone measure to avoid getting ahead of the administration's process.

Coons is another no-go on a binding bill.

"Senator Coons believes the law makes clear that it's up to the administration to make permitting decisions like this one. He's frustrated with how long it's taking for a decision to be made, but doesn't think it's Congress' role to be issuing construction permits," Coons spokesman Ian Koski said in an email on Thursday.

When asked on Wednesday which way he'd vote, Carper wouldn't be pinned down, signaling the difficulty Keystone advocates will have rallying votes if it comes to the floor next week.

This story was last updated at 5:51 p.m.