The Conversation

Keystone Pipeline Causing Heartburn for Vulnerable Democrats

A recent Harris telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters Apr. 16-20 commissioned by API, found 78% saying Keystone XL is in the US national interest, and 68% saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the project.

Cindy Schild, API's downstream operations senior manager, said, "Unfortunately, [US President Barack Obama] has decided to side with a billionaire activist and a handful of shrill extremists instead of the thousands of skilled American workers who have been shut out of the good paying jobs KXL would provide."

A recent poll of Coloradans showed that two-thirds of voters want the Keystone pipeline built, putting Senator Udall, who represents the energy producing state, out of step with voters. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is allowing a vote this week on legislation that would approve the KeystoneXL pipeline.

Udall, facing a tough reelection fight this fall against Republican Congressman Cory Gardner,  has voted "no" on Keystone in the past, but under intense pressure this time around, is considered to be "wishy-washy" on the issue.

The dilemma is ruining Udall's week, reports National Journal:

If Udall votes yes, he'll anger a liberal base that has put blocking the pipeline at the head of its environmental charge. But if he votes no, his opponent promises to use it as fodder for painting the Democrat as too liberal for a moderate state. 

Udall is one of Six Democrat Senators who made a pilgrimage to "a posh private residence" in San Francisco, last February, to kiss the ring of hedge fund-billionaire turned super-donor Tom Steyer. The mission if they chose to accept it would earn them $400,000 that night and a promise of $100 million more to come. The mission? Stop the pipeline.

They were also joined by one aspiring Democratic senator, Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan. Peters voted against the bipartisan Northern Route Approval Act, H.R. 3, which would require the presidential permit to be issued. The bill passed the House 241 to 175 last May, but Reid has refused to allow the Senate to consider it.

Thanks to Peters' out of step stance on this and other issues, the reliably blue state is now a toss-up with Republican upstart Terri Lynn Land leading in some polls.


As of last week, the bill from Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. had 56 cosponsors—including all Senate Republicans. Four more Democrats are needed to get them past the 60-vote threshold.
Gardner has repeatedly called on Udall to clarify his position, saying that a no vote for the Senate legislation functions as a vote against the pipeline. In a statement last month, Gardner blasted Udall for his "decision to sit on the sidelines as America comes closer and closer to losing a project that would create thousands of jobs and help bolster economic growth."

Udall is not the only Democrat who would have an easier week were the Senate to go Keystone-free, with Bennet also in the spotlight. Bennet voted yes on the nonbinding resolution that was attached to the federal budget in the fall, but hasn't backed the latest measure.

With several other blue state Democrats saying they'll vote "no", it appears the motion will fall short. Udall, however will upset either his base, or the majority in his state, no matter how he votes.

Meanwhile, a new  nationwide USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows "the strongest tilt to Republican candidates at this point in a midterm year in at least two decades, including before partisan "waves" in 1994 and 2010 that swept the GOP into power."

 Though Election Day is six months away — a lifetime in politics — at the moment, Democrats are saddled by angst over the economy, skepticism about the health care law and tepid approval of the president.

"People should start opening their eyes and seeing we're not on track," says Brenna Collins, 32, a small-business owner from Kasson, Minn., who was among those surveyed. "Not exactly saying Republicans are right but that things need to change."

By more than 2-1, 65%-30%, Americans say they want the president elected in 2016 to pursue different policies and programs than the Obama administration, rather than similar ones.
 Tom Steyer has his work cut out for him.



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