Senate moves to final Keystone vote

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The Senate on Thursday moved toward final passage of a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline, voting 62-35 to end debate on the legislation.

"We are very close to the end," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters shortly after the cloture vote.

Republicans are poised to pass the Keystone bill in their first major act as the Senate majority. At least 60 senators are expected to vote to approve the pipeline, and it's possible the legislation could get 63 votes if nine Democrats vote in favor.

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President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation authorizing the $8 billion pipeline's construction, and Republicans do not appear to have the 67 votes necessary to override him.

"We are hoping the president, upon reflection, will sign agree to sign onto a bill that his State Department says could creates 42,000 jobs,"," McConnell said.

 

Before reaching Obama, the legislation must first be approved by the House, which has already passed its own bill authorizing the pipeline.

It's not clear whether the House will simply approve the Senate's version, or if there will be a conference between House and Senate members to reconcile the two Keystone bills. 

The Senate has voted on roughly 35 amendments to the Keystone bill, only five of which have passed. 
 
One of the most memorable was a measure offered by Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Democrats seek to exploit Trump-GOP tensions in COVID-19 talks Liability shield fight threatens to blow up relief talks MORE (D-R.I.) that declared "climate change is real and not a hoax." It passed in a 98-1 vote, with only one Republican voting no. 
 
 
The victory for Keystone proponents will come after lengthy debate over the $8 billion oil sands project.
 
Earlier in the week, lawmakers thought a final vote wouldn't come until next week. But a long Wednesday worknight in the Senate, during which votes were recorded on 11 amendments, brought the chamber closer to finishing its work.

Both parties agreed after Wednesday's marathon to hold votes on a final batch of amendments Thursday and then to proceed to a final vote.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (R-Alaska), who was credited with helping shepherd the bill through, reflected on the four-week long debate.

"Thirty-eight amendments to date is nothing to sneeze at," Murkowski told reporters after the vote to end debate.

"Members are coming together, and all of a sudden you are looking around the floor and realizing that there may be somebody that you can work with on a pipeline safety issue, or there may be somebody you can work with to build a coalition to deal with the land and water conservation fund," she said. 

She added that the debate surrounding the first piece of legislation the Senate is poised to send to Obama is "important" not just for the pipeline, but "for the process and good for the spirit of cooperation as we move forward."

This story was updated at 1:22 p.m.