Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are close, really close, to nailing down a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and a GOP victory on Tuesday is what will likely get them there.
Republicans are optimistic that binding legislation approving the controversial pipeline can garner 60 votes in the Senate after Tuesday’s election.
If the six easiest GOP pickups go its way, the party will gain the majority, and add another two votes to its Keystone tally, hitting 59.
After that, the GOP would only need a pickup in Colorado or Iowa to get to 60.
“It is definitely going to be a tough push, but we are confident we will have enough votes in the Senate when we take over,” a top Republican Senate aide told The Hill on Tuesday.
In fact, Republicans appear confident Colorado and Iowa will both go to them, putting the vote count at 61, the aide said.
On top of that, the Republican aide said, the party thinks there is a strong chance lawmakers like Sens. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSenate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' Hillicon Valley: Cryptocurrency amendment blocked in Senate | Dems press Facebook over suspension of researchers' accounts | Thousands push back against Apple plan to scan US iPhones for child sexual abuse images Democrats press Facebook over suspension of researchers' accounts MORE (D-Del.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - US speeds evacuations as thousands of Americans remain in Afghanistan Biden finds few Capitol Hill allies amid Afghanistan backlash Trains matter to America MORE (D-Del.) will back the oil sands pipeline this time around, noting election-year politics for earlier hesitancy.
The aide also said Republicans are “absolutely” confident when it comes to Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees Abortion rights groups want Biden to use bully pulpit after Texas law Overnight Health Care: Democrats plot response to Texas abortion law MORE’s (D-Pa.) continued support of the pipeline if a binding vote comes forward.
In May, Casey was the only Democrat from a Republican-leaning state to back a bill that would have approved the $5.4 billion project, but a deal to bring the bill to the floor crumbled.
The push will undoubtedly be met with opposition and, despite the Republicans' strong chances of taking control of the Senate, greens are confident any legislation to approve the pipeline, or circumvent the president, will fail.
Jamie Henn, co-founder and communications director for 350.org, said climate activists won’t focus too much on trying to flip Democrats like Casey, instead applying all their pressure on Obama.
“If Obama approves the pipeline it would be a real blow to his legacy on climate, he has a lot to lose in terms of his outgoing reputation. He has been very clear he wants to have a strong legacy on climate change,” he said.
Henn added that greens are confident Obama will veto any pipeline bill that comes to his desk from Congress, and isn’t worried about a GOP takeover.
“No matter which way it goes it won’t be so bad,” Henn said. “We are itching to get back in the fight.”
Still, a Republican majority in both chambers bent on pushing through binding legislation that approves the Alberta-to-Gulf pipeline could cause headaches for the president.
On Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said passing Keystone is the No. 2 priority for a Senate under the GOP control.
“I actually think the president will sign the bill on the Keystone pipeline because I think the pressure — he’s going to be boxed in on that, and I think it’s going to happen,” Priebus said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”
Here’s a breakdown of the states Keystone supporters need to flip in order to get to the filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate, applying pressure on President Obama.
TIER 1: The six easiest pickups for GOP
Needed for GOP majority, but will not change pipeline vote count. Recent polling puts Republican Dan Sullivan ahead of Sen. 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 (D), but both parties are cautious as the state is tough to poll.
Rep. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE defeated Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (D). Will not change pipeline vote count.
Will not change pipeline vote count. The race is going to a December runoff.
Rep. Steve Daines (R) won. Will not change pipeline vote count.
Gov. Mike Rounds (R) won, putting Keystone vote count at 58.
Republican Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE won, putting Keystone vote count at 59.
TIER 2: Only one more
If Republicans pick up all of the previous six seats, they will just need one more from this tier to reach 60 — two to get to 61, which provides a bit of a cushion for any future Keystone vote.
Rep. Cory GardnerCory GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program MORE (R) won, putting the Keystone vote count at 60.
Republican Joni Ernst won, putting Keystone vote count at 61.
If GOP wins pipeline supporters gain one vote. Here, however, Democrat Rep. Gary Peters is a big favorite. The likelihood of Keystone supporters winning here is slim.
TIER 3: The outlier
Keystone supporters could lose one vote if Independent Greg Orman, who is running a tough race against Republican Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE, wins. Orman has yet to say whether he supports the pipeline.
In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this month, Orman said he would support Keystone “if it truly has no net environmental impact,” hinting that he is likely to vote against the oil sands project.