So Much for an Easy Keystone Victory for Senate Republicans

With the turnover of leadership in the Senate to Republicans in January, the only Keystone question was whether advocates had enough votes to override a promised presidential veto. Turned out they were unable to overcome the first filibuster of 2015.

2 minute read

January 29, 2015, 8:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Sixty votes were required to overcome a Senate filibuster by opponents of authorizing construction of the controversial pipeline without presidential approval. Opponents had the weather in their favor, plus disenchantment with the cutoff of debate, according to Elana Schoran energy reporter for POLITICO Pro, focusing on oil and gas.

A pair of 53-39 votes against ending debate on Keystone might have reached the 60-vote threshold they needed, however, had two absent pro-pipeline Democrats voted with the GOP Monday night, and winter storms not prevented some Republicans from reaching Washington.

In fact, the prior vote on Nov. 18, 2014, when Democrats controlled the Senate, was much closer. :

On a 59 to 41 roll call, [former Sen. Mary] Landrieu’s [D-La] campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

While absenteeism may have lost the vote for new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Democrats have also pushed him "to continue the freewheeling energy debate on the floor that has delved into topics ranging from climate change to eminent domain," writes Schor.

The Keystone bill’s future now may depend on whether the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s leaders, Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), can hammer out an agreement for more amendment votes that satisfies the bill’s Democratic supporters.

As it turns out, a Senate vote may not be needed to force the president's hand on making a decision whether to authorize or reject the pipeline.

On Feb. 2, the Obama administration’s years-long review of a border-crossing permit for the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline enters its next stage as agencies such as EPA and the Interior Department face a deadline for commenting on the State Department’s finding that Keystone is unlikely to have a significant environmental impact.

PoliticusUSA owner Jason Easley adds that "(t)he bill to authorize the construction of the pipeline will eventually pass, but Democrats are sending a message to McConnell and the Republicans that they are going to hold McConnell to his word that the Senate will be run by an open process."

Hat tips to Alex Guillen and Darren Goode of Politico Morning Energy.

Monday, January 26, 2015 in Politico Pro

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Walkway at San Gabriel River Park.

From Duck Farm to Parkland

The opening of the San Gabriel River Park expands access to green spaces for residents in the San Gabriel Valley, especially for Avocado Heights and other park-poor communities in the area.

5 hours ago - San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Oak tree with golden hour sun coming through its leaves on a hill in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

Southern California’s Oak Trees are Under Threat

Goldspotted oak borers (GSOB) are invasive pests that are harming and killing oak trees across San Diego, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

6 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

Close-up of natural gas stove burner with blue flames.

Berkeley Voters to Decide on Building Gas Tax

The city could tax large buildings that use gas in lieu of enacting a law that would have banned gas-powered buildings altogether.

7 hours ago - Smart Cities Dive

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.