House, Senate Dems feud over Keystone

House, Senate Dems feud over Keystone
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are not happy that their colleagues in the Senate are “playing a game” to help boost Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuBottom line A decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face MORE (D-La.) in her uphill December runoff by pushing through legislation that would greenlight the Keystone XL oil pipeline. 

“There is a level of disappointment that this is about political one-upmanship,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Friday, shortly after the House voted to approve construction of the oil sands project.


“They are hijacking the process,” he added.

The GOP-led House voted on the bill at the request of her GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), following Landrieu's move in the Senate. 

However, a number of Democrats in the House don’t think the move by Democratic Senate leadership to allow a vote on Keystone will even save Landrieu’s seat.

When Landrieu requested unanimous consent Wednesday, no one objected, not even staunch liberal environmentalists. 

Senate Democrats are giving up a priority that matters to the rank and file of the party, a House Democratic aide said.

Grijlava warned that the House and Senate Keystone votes could be a “harbinger of the way Republicans want to do business” by “torpedoing” any regulation or process they disagree with.

“This decision in the Senate to move forward was a political consideration to try to save Landrieu’s seat. That is not good public policy, that is just political convenience,” he said.

Grijalva added that he thinks President Obama would veto the bill if it were to make it to his desk, adding another layer of futility to the votes. 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, similarly didn’t agree with the decision, calling it a “game.”

“Republicans brought up bill to boost Cassidy. And obviously Democrats in the Senate are playing a game trying to help Mary Landrieu,” he said.

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyCongress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe Trump's postmaster general is playing with political fire USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (D-Va.), who voted against the measure Friday, said that scheduling the votes for the benefit of Cassidy and Landrieu limited debate on the pipeline's merits.

"This is not the way to address a major public policy issue," Connolly said. "Now we're in a political tug of war to help two different candidates in a runoff in Louisiana. And so all the public policy arguments go out the window."

Like many other Democrats, Connolly doesn't think Congress should get involved with the administration's review of the pipeline.

"I think it's bad public policy for the Democrats to do it in the Senate and for the Republicans to do it here in the House," Connolly said.

Ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wasn’t happy about the way the vote was painting a majority of Democrats as radical green activists. 

“Everybody in Louisiana is clearly for it. The senator from Louisiana has been a strong supporter of it and the would-be replacement senator is for it. The Republican whip is strongly for it. The oil companies are strongly for it,” Waxman said during debate on the House floor on Thursday. “But to say that those who oppose it are radical environmental extremists seems to me is quite a stretch.”

Landrieu said Friday she is “confident” she will have the 60 votes when the Senate votes on the pipeline early next week. 

The vote count reached 59 on Friday, after Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 MORE (D-Colo.), the outgoing chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, gave Landrieu his word that he would vote in favor of the project. 

Still, the bill’s odds don’t look great once it reaches the president, who warned lawmakers not to “short circuit” the process at the State Department on Friday. 

—Cristina Marcos contributed to this report.