Monday, January 12, 2015

Senate Votes to Move Forward on Keystone XL Bill 63 to 32, with the Help of Some Oily Democrats

Today, the Senate voted for cloture on the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S. 1) 63 to 32.

The vote would have been 65 to 35 had all senators been in attendance (Cassidy and Rubio on the Republican side; Brown, Reid, and Wyden on the Democratic side).

10 Democrats and Angus King joined the Republicans to pass it:

Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Tom Carper (D-DE)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Angus King (I-ME)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Mark Warner (D-VA)

This largely mirrored the vote from last November. The 59 votes then became 65 votes now (the "if all were there" total) because (a) Democratic NO votes were replaced by Republican YES votes in Colorado, Iowa, and South Dakota and (b) Angus King and Tom Udall, who both voted NO before, flipped their votes to a YES here. A YES on cloture is not the same as a YES on passage, but King and Udall (especially the latter) deserve to hear from their constituents about this.

The Senate will continue work on Keystone later this week, possibly (but not certainly) voting on amendments and passage on Friday. Democrats have proposed a number of amendments, some of which are listed below:
The amendments would: — Ban the export of oil transported through the pipeline, language that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has frequently floated in both chambers of Congress;
— Require U.S.-produced iron, steel and manufactured goods “to be used for the pipeline construction, connection, operation, and maintenance.” It’s another familiar measure that senators like Markey and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have offered.
— Require “that for every job created by the pipeline, an equal or greater amount of jobs is created through clean energy investments.” Schumer and Stabenow highlight legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would cut the price of home solar units through rebates.
— Restore funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to levels authorized in the 2009 economic stimulus bill under the condition that seniors and veterans get first priority.
They also include a proposal to “modestly raise royalty rates for Big Oil companies for offshore and onshore drilling and mining (for both coal and other minerals) on federal lands” in order to pay for the home solar rebates and increased LIHEAP funding.
Bernie Sanders is also offering an amendment that would express a "sense of the Senate" that anthropogenic climate change is real and requires significant investment in a clean energy transition. 

Ultimately, however, this bill is going nowhere because the White House has already expressed its intention to veto it, and neither the House nor the Senate has a veto-proof majority on the issue.

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