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Senate Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline

(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)
(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)

(Updated at 7:10 p.m., Tues., Nov. 18)

The Senate fell one vote short of sending the Keystone XL pipeline legislation to the president.  

Senate Democrats had long blocked the bill from getting a vote but relented in part to help Sen.  Mary Landrieu, D-La. keep her seat.  Landrieu is a long-time supporter of the pipeline and is facing a December runoff.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says a pipeline bill will be sent to the president early next year after Republicans take control of the Congress.  The president threatened to veto the bill, saying Congress should not short-circuit a federal review that's already under way. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also voted for the bill as did Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., but Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., voted against the measure.

Read our earlier story below.   

Even though Republicans do not take full control of Congress until January, lawmakers in both parties appear more willing, and in some cases even eager, to call out President Barack Obama on his possible veto of legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The House, on Friday, approved the pipeline’s construction on a vote of 252 to 161 with 31 Democrats joining ranks with Republicans.  The vote came just three days into the lame duck session and little more than a week after Democrats took a drubbing at the polls – losing their Senate majority and even giving up some previously deep blue seats in the House.

Still, Missouri’s two Democratic representatives, Lacy Clay of University City and Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, voted against the pipeline bill.  All of the state’s House Republicans backed the measure.

The Senate, still in Democratic hands, is set to take up the bill early next week with at least one unresolved Senate race to be determined, in part, over support for the pipeline.  Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. faces a December run-off in a state home to some of the country’s biggest oil facilities. She supports passage of the pipeline and has become one of its biggest cheerleaders in this lame duck session.

Both of Missouri’s senators, Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill, have long backed construction of the pipeline. 

It is uncertain whether the Senate has the votes needed to send the measure to the president, but Republicans appear to be in a win-win situation on the issue.  If the president signs the measure, the pipeline construction will go forward, and Republicans will undoubtedly take credit for backing Obama into a corner.  If the president vetoes the bill, GOP lawmakers will cast him as obstructing job growth and ignoring the will of the voters, as the GOP sees it, from the outcome of the mid-term elections.

Obama is traveling in Asia and just days ago announced an agreement with China to slow the release of carbon emissions as part of his push to address climate change. He reaffirmed his position that congressional action should not circumvent an ongoing federal review of the proposed pipeline.

Environmental groups are pushing the president to block the pipeline, saying that approval of the project would damage Obama’s legacy on climate change.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville., and a member of the House Energy committee, backs the pipeline as a safe and cost-effective way to secure energy from Canada, a friend and neighbor, rather than from unfriendly and at times unstable sources in the Middle East.

He also says safety fears are unfounded and based on what he sees as the public’s lack of understanding of pipelines.  “This isn’t the first pipeline to be built in the U.S.,” Shimkus said. 

He also dismisses environmental arguments as not really being about the pipeline.  “If you listen to the real heart of the debate, even on the floor (of the House) it’s all (about) climate change and greenhouse gas.  The idea of the environmental community is to stop all future development of fossil fuels, whether it is coal or tar sands, shale oil and the like; so by stopping the pipeline they stop the ability to mine oil sands,” he said.

Some have argued that the mining of Canada’s oil sands will continue whether or not the pipeline is built and that truck and rail transport of the tar sands oil would create an even larger carbon impact than the pipeline.