Louisiana Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu hoped to get a win ahead of her December 6 runoff election by getting the Keystone pipeline bill passed through the Senate today but was disappointed as the bill went down in defeat at the hands of members of her own party.
In an effort to lend Landrieu a hand, current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed the stalled Keystone XL pipeline bill to go to a cloture vote, but it was not to be as 41 members of the Senator’s own party doomed the bill’s passage.
Senator Landrieu had hoped to prove to her constituents that she was powerful enough to win passage of the bill that could bring thousands of jobs to Louisiana, not to mention revenue and tax dollars. Landrieu is headed for what many consider a long-shot reelection in her runoff with Republican opponent Bill Cassidy.
By some counts Landrieu had 59 votes to bring cloture on the energy bill, and some thought she had a shot at getting her 60th vote with Senator Dick Durbin. But the Illinoisan and third in line of seniority in the Democratic Senate kept Washington guessing on whether or not his vote would throw a lifeline to Senator Landrieu. Ultimately, Durbin voted “no” on cloture once again stalling the bill.
The failure of the bill gives Obama a short reprieve from having to make a tough decision. Should the bill ever land on his desk, the President would have to choose between signing the bill, as many of his jobs-seeking union supporters want, and vetoing the bill as his environmentalist supporters want.
Obama has pushed off the need to make a final choice on Keystone for several years but has hinted that he leans against the bill. Still, he has yet to be placed in the position of having to make an actual choice as the bill has never gotten out of a Senate that has compliantly stalled the bill for him. With the GOP takeover of the Senate next year, however, that stalling is likely to come to an end.
Already, Senate Republican Majority Leader-in-waiting, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, issued a statement on the failure of cloture promising that this bill would be one of the first he will bring to a vote when he takes the lead in the next session.
“Tonight, Senate Democrats once again stood in the way of a shovel-ready jobs project that would help thousands of Americans find work—a remarkable stance after an election in which the American people sent a clear message to Congress to approve serious policies like the Keystone XL Pipeline and get the Senate working again,” McConnell said. “Unfortunately, many Senate Democrats failed to hear that message. But once the 114th Congress convenes, the Senate will act again on this important legislation, and I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the New Year.”
The Republicans in the House have long pushed for the bill and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took the occasion of this cloture vote to warn the President that he’d better not veto the pipeline when it finally gets to his desk.
“Let’s be clear about this: A Keystone pipeline veto would send the signal that this president has no interest in listening to the American people,” Boehner said on Tuesday. “Vetoing an overwhelmingly popular bill would be a clear indication that he doesn’t care about the American people’s priorities. It would be equivalent of calling the American people stupid.
It is clear that the time is quickly coming that Obama will have to make an actual decision one way or the other on the Keystone XL pipeline.
Meanwhile, left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer, who has put millions of his own money into an anti-Keystone campaign, has declared victory over today’s vote.
“This is a legacy-defining issue where one’s position signifies whether they are standing up for or against the next generation on the issue of climate—and with today’s vote, the Senate chose to stand up for the American people,” the billionaire said on Tuesday evening after the vote.
But at least one Democrat Senator besides Landrieu was quite unhappy with today’s outcome.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin criticized members of his own party for leaving Landrieu “hanging” over a vote that could have saved her political career.
Energy policy reporter Nick Juliano reported that Senator Manchin angrily asked, “Would the republicans leave someone hanging like that on their side?”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.