Updated 7:42 p.m. | A Senate bill aimed at approving the Keystone XL pipeline stalled Tuesday, dealing a blow to Sen. Mary L. Landrieu’s tough re-election bid.
Republican leaders plan to bring the pipeline legislation back up next year, when GOP reinforcements appear certain to bring it over the line and to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The 59-41 vote fell just one vote short of overcoming a filibuster led by Democrats.
In addition to Landrieu, Democrats who backed the pipeline included Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana, John Walsh of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.
Republicans hope their ranks will include Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging Landrieu in next month’s runoff election in Louisiana and like Landrieu has long backed the pipeline, which would ship oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Cassidy sponsored the Keystone bill that earlier passed the House.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who will run the Senate next year, vowed to bring it up quickly.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Republicans are getting closer to the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto in the Senate, noting that some Democrats had cited a need to let the review process play itself out first.
There’s also the possibility of combining the bill with other legislation to convince the president to back the pipeline or pick up other Democratic votes.
“I really am confident that we will not only get it but we’ll get it in a way that gets us beyond the presidential veto,” he said.
“We’ll work in a creative way, but there’s any number of members on both sides of the aisle that are already in discussions with us about coming up with either a broader energy package or some other way to work on it,” he said.
One option not on the table, Hoeven said, was threatening a government shutdown over the issue.
“I don’t think a shutdown works… We’re not interested in shutting down government, we’re interested in passing legislation that is good for the American people.”
Obama has said he wants an evaluation at the State Department to run its course and has cited an ongoing dispute over the route in Nebraska as reasons not to make a decision on the pipeline now, though it has been in the permitting process for six years.
Obama has also largely dismissed the pipeline as a job creator, saying it would send Canadian oil through the United States to foreign markets.
Environmental groups also have waged a fierce lobbying campaign against the pipeline, charging that it will increase carbon emissions from Canada’s tar sands, and Obama frequently has faced protestors opposing its construction at events across the country.
Republican senators said the pipeline was more environmentally sound than having the oil shipped by rail. But it’s also become a larger symbol of the fight over energy.
“The Keystone XL pipeline is important on it’s own but it’s also become important as a symbol of whether our country is willing to embrace the great opportunity of more American energy,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “If there is a simpler formula than more American energy equals more American jobs, I don’t know what that formula is,” he said.
One question that the White House still has to answer: Do they veto it outright, or try and trade approval for another presidential priority? There’s no shortage of administration proposals that have ended up as legislative rubble in recent years to choose from.
Clark Mindock and Sarah Chacko contributed to this report.
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