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Senate rejects Keystone in 56-42 vote

Senate rejects Keystone in 56-42 vote

The Senate has rejected a GOP plan to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline after President Obama made personal calls to Democrats urging them to oppose it.

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The 56-42 vote staves off an election-year rebuke of Obama, but will give political ammunition to backers of TransCanada Corp.’s plan to build a pipeline connecting Alberta’s massive tar sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries. 

Despite Obama's efforts, 11 Democrats brushed off Obama on the vote and sided with Republicans. 

The 11 Democratic defections were Sens. Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusCryptocurrency industry lobbies Washington for 'regulatory clarity' Bottom line Bottom line MORE (Mont.), Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska Senate race sees cash surge in final stretch Alaska group backing independent candidate appears linked to Democrats Sullivan wins Alaska Senate GOP primary MORE (Alaska), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda MORE (Pa.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (N.C.), Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCassidy wins reelection in Louisiana Bottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth MORE (La.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking The Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience MORE (W.Va.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Jan. 6 commission vote delayed; infrastructure debate lingers into June Missouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run MORE (Mo.), Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (Ark.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (Mont.) and Jim Webb (Va.). 


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No Republicans voted against the measure, and 60 votes were needed to move forward. 

With gas prices rising, the issue has become an election-year political weapon for Republicans, who say Obama is passing up a chance to boost U.S. energy security and create jobs. Several of the Democrats who voted in favor of Keystone face reelection contests this year, including Casey, Manchin, McCaskill and Tester. 

Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenLobbying world Hillicon Valley: Facebook to resume some political donations | Microsoft says Russian hackers utilized email system used by USAID to target other groups | Senate confirms Biden's top scientist Khanna, Mace introduce bill to strengthen federal cyber workforce following major hacks MORE (R-N.D.), the measure's chief sponsor, told reporters after the vote that he'll continue seeking ways to advance Keystone. 

"All along we've said the highway bill was just one option. This is a project that got majority support in the Senate. We are making progress," Hoeven said.  

"We will see what else comes up, and I'm not even sure that we're done with the highway bill. Remember we have got to work with the House too," said Hoeven, who highlighted the Democratic votes for the amendment.



Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenNew Alzheimer's drug sparks backlash over FDA, pricing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain Senate panel advances nominations for key Treasury positions MORE (D-Ore.) and other Democrats opposed to the project argued oil would end up going to Asia, and that the pipeline could even raise costs in the U.S.


Obama rejected a cross-border permit for the Keystone pipeline in January.

He said the decision was not based on the merits of the project, but instead in response to a 60-day permit decision deadline that Republicans demanded in a December payroll tax cut bill. Obama said the deadline would short-circuit review.

The administration has invited TransCanada to reapply for a cross-border permit, which the company plans to do, and is also blessing TransCanada’s plan to proceed with a portion of the project to bring U.S oil from Oklahoma to Gulf Coast refineries.

Obama personally urged senators to reject the amendment, and White House spokesman Clark Stevens, ahead of the vote, bashed the proposal sponsored by Hoeven and backed by GOP leadership.

“Once again Republicans are trying to play politics with a pipeline project whose route has yet to be proposed, and despite the claims that this would somehow solve the pain families are feeling at the pump today, according to the company it would take years before it transported a drop of oil,” Stevens said in a statement.

The amendment, unlike previous GOP efforts to simply create a deadline for an administration permit decision, would have bypassed the administration and approved construction, although the legislation would still require Obama’s signature.

Obama in recent days and weeks has aggressively touted his own energy policies with a trio of speeches in battleground states.

Powerful industry groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, along with some unions, have lobbied strongly for the pipeline and argue that the State Department has already conducted a robust review of the project.

TransCanada initially applied for a permit in 2008.

Environmentalists and a number of Democrats strongly oppose the project over greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and burning oil sands, forest damage from the massive projects and fear of spill along the route.

Just before the vote on the GOP amendment, the Senate also turned back an amendment from Wyden. The 34-64 vote might have given some Democrats political cover to vote against the GOP-led Keystone amendment from Sens. Hoeven, Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBiden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status Bottom line Lysol, Charmin keep new consumer brand group lobbyist busy during pandemic MORE (R-La.).

Wyden’s plan required “expeditious” review of the Keystone permit application, but also barred U.S. export of oil from the pipeline or refined products created from it.

Hoeven said Wyden's bill would stop the Keystone project. 

“This amendment is designed to block the project, make no mistake … it requests that TransCanada start over after 3.5 years … and adds additional impediments to the project,” he said prior to the vote. “With gas prices going up every day … we need more supply, and not from the Middle East.”

But Wyden said his amendment would ensure Keystone was built the right way.

“This amendment ensures the Keystone pipeline is built by American workers using American steel and that our priority is reasonably priced energy for American families and business rather than their Chinese competitors,” he said. 

“When you build a pipeline that is 2,000 miles across the nation, our challenge is to do it right. There are two alternatives. This one gives us a chance to do it right.” 


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This story was updated at 5:13 p.m.