Keystone Bill Aims for Vote, But Does it Have a Vitter Death Sentence?

keystone xxl protest

The Keystone XL pipeline was recently taken off the table by President Barack Obama as he put off the administration’s deadline for reviewing the matter, adding to the five years of delaying it before now. His reason this time around has to do with a Nebraskan court case that might affect the project should it be allowed — and could also conveniently put the decision off until after elections in Congress, where Democrats are concerned about losing a majority.

The bipartisan bill was presented in party by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who is facing a tough election in a heavily Republican state with dependence on the energy industry that would make proactive measures for the pipeline good PR for Landrieu’s upcoming Senate battle.

Now, forty-five Republicans and eleven Democrats are working to put the pipeline back on the table — pushing to place the issue under the control of Congress instead of held up in the executive branch. At present, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who also presented the bill, still needs five more backers to reach the needed sixty votes.

“I don’t know if we will get 60,” said Hoeven to Reuters. “At this point I have a lot of maybes, but I don’t know how many will end up voting with us … To move forward on energy efficiency, we are going to have to get a vote on Keystone. … The president totally changed the situation … we’re pushing for congressional approval. To have another resolution, or another timeline, just doesn’t work.”

Complicating the matter is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who is planning to hook an old death sentence to the bill — the health care contribution cuts for politicians seen in the Vitter amendment. In the past, when attached to a bill, the Vitter amendment as been tantamount to the legislative four horsemen of the apocalypse, signalling death and disappointment. This is a reference, of course, to the defeat of the Shaheen Portman bill; the Portman bill was also an energy industry matter and would have encouraged the use and development of energy efficient technology.

His intention to add it to the new Keystone bill has many groaning, including Senate Majority Lader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “I guess he had such a good time a year ago when he brought this up, he’d want to try it again,” said Reid, according to Politico. Vitter, of course, disagrees, saying the blame lies on Reid for not allowing his legislation to see a vote without being attached. “I’m more than happy to vote on my legislation as a standalone bill, but Harry Reid doesn’t want that, because he seems convinced that he belongs in a special ruling class.”

The vote might even be canceled as a result of the decision, undoubtedly a frustration for those in Congress who’d like to see one before elections. “I’m putting it off,” said Reid, regarding Keystone talks, reports Politico. “If we can work something out I would strongly consider, as I said yesterday, having a vote on this. But with Vitter, now I don’t know what we can do.”

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