Democrats plan tough votes for GOP on Keystone pipeline bill

Democrats plan tough votes for GOP on Keystone pipeline bill
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Democrats are poised to make Republicans cast a series of tough votes on legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the GOP hopes to send to President Obama’s desk soon.

Obama has vowed to veto the bill, and Democrats do not appear to have the votes to kill the legislation in the Senate as they have repeatedly done in the past.

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Instead, Senate Democrats opposed to the pipeline are offering amendments that they think will be tough for the GOP to vote against or that will play well in the 2016 elections.

In offering the measures, they think they can take advantage of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act House Dem cites transgender grandson in voting for Equality Act MORE’s (R-Ky.) pledge to run the Senate differently from Democrats by allowing members of both parties to offer amendments more freely.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHere are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Sanders unveils education plan that would ban for-profit charter schools Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off MORE (I-Vt.), for example, plans to offer a nonbinding resolution on whether lawmakers agree with the 95 percent of scientists who say human activities contribute to climate change. 

“There are lots of things that members of the Senate can disagree about, but I think we should not be disagreeing about what the scientific community tells us,” Sanders said in a brief interview with The Hill.

He said the scientific community is “virtually unanimous” in its opinion that greenhouse gasses produced by industry are warming the climate and causing “irreparable damage.”

“I am going to offer an amendment which will allow Republicans to tell the American people whether or not they agree,” he said.

Another promised amendment would require companies transporting crude oil through the Keystone pipeline to pay into an oil spill cleanup fund. And Massachusetts Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyTrump faces criticism for hosting Hungary's leader Bill Nye tees off on climate change skeptics: 'The planet is on f---ing fire!' Sanders to join Ocasio-Cortez in headlining Green New Deal rally Monday MORE (D) is expected to offer a measure that would ban the export of any oil shipped through the pipeline. 

Both measures could be difficult for lawmakers to oppose, regardless of party.

Consideration of the amendments is expected to begin Tuesday after the Senate voted to advance the Keystone legislation on Monday in a 63-32 procedural vote. 

McConnell on Monday repeated his pledge to allow Democrats to offer their amendments as part of an open process.

“I know senators from both sides are hungry for a real Senate debate. I know they want to offer amendments. I know they’re anxious to finally have their voices — and the voices of the people they represent — heard,” said McConnell, who took over the reins from Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidLobbying World Mitch McConnell is not invincible Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (D-Nev.) as majority leader last week.

Republicans have argued that Democrats did not allow senators to freely debate measures and offer amendments when they held the majority.

McConnell’s office has also said that members in both parties will be allowed to offer amendments even if they are not related to Keystone.

“Senate rules (except on rare occasions) don’t require an amendment be germane,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told The Hill in an email.

While Republicans don’t plan on shying away from Sanders’s amendment, they could offer one of their own that acts to counter it.

A possible measure could say that the pipeline is beneficial to the U.S. and helps curb greenhouse emissions, a GOP aide said.

In a letter to the Democratic conference early last week, Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGetting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults MORE (N.Y.) and Vice Chairwoman Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowDems want climate change, tax hikes in infrastructure deal Critics accuse EPA of weakening pollution rule for Pentagon Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer MORE (Mich.) called on Democrats to test the new Republican majority on its promise to hold an open amendment process for the Keystone bill.

“Consideration of this bill will provide us with the first opportunity to demonstrate that we will be united, energetic, and effective in offering amendments,” the letter stated. 

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDon't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy MORE (D-Wash.) will propose the amendment aimed at oil companies, arguing they should have to pay if there is a spill. 

“Why are we giving a sweetheart deal to some company so that they don’t have to follow the rules?” Cantwell said during a committee hearing last week on the bill, referring to Keystone developer TransCanada.

Between six and nine Democratic senators are expected to back the Keystone bill, but the overwhelming majority of Democrats, including Sanders and Cantwell, oppose it.

Republicans are expected to offer up amendments of their own. 

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCompanies warn Trump trade war is about to hit consumers Lawmakers grapple with the future of America's workforce The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (R-Ohio) plans to propose various provisions from his larger energy efficiency bill with Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenForeign Relations senators demand Iran briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again Bipartisan senators seek sanctions on Russian pipeline work MORE (D-N.H.).

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Eye-popping number of Dems: I can beat Trump 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (R-Texas) said he will propose an amendment that lifts the decades-old ban on crude oil exports to the Keystone bill. 

“We need to follow through with a big, bold positive agenda to help get Americans back to work,” Cruz said.

McConnell’s office said it would have a better idea of additional Republican amendments after Monday’s cloture vote. 

“Moving forward, what I would urge is for our Democrat friends to work with us as the new Republican majority continues to bring more openness to the Senate,” McConnell said. 

“The changes we’re making are ones many Democrats have indicated they’d like to see. They reforms we’re implementing would give a real voice to the constituents of Democrat senators.”