On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a piece of legislation allowing the construction of the Keystone Xl pipeline. The measure was passed with 12 votes for and 10 votes against.
Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) both were notable democrats who voted for the pipeline’s construction. This isn’t surprising, as Landrieu is facing a tough reelection fight this coming fall, and Manchin certainly does not want to anger the voters back in his home state.
The bill is unlikely to make it to the floor of the Senate though. Harry Reid hinted on Tuesday that he would block any Keystone XL legislation that came across his desk.
“This vote seems more like a cheerleading exercise. The obstacle to getting Keystone built is Senator Reid,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
“There was no popcorn and Coca-Cola handed out today at this meeting, and there were no tickets sold to get in here. This is the United States Senate. This is the energy committee,” said Landrieu in response to Barrasso’s disparaging comments regarding the pipeline vote.
Republicans claim that Landrieu’s position as head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee does not matter as long as Reid is the Majority Leader of the Senate.
Any standalone legislation on the Keystone pipeline is sure to get blocked by Reid, which is a fact that Republicans are hoping will help them win back the upper chamber of Congress in this year’s midterm elections.
“The reality is if the project is going to get approved, Congress is going to have to do it. The president clearly is not going to approve it,” said Sen. John Hoven (R-ND.)
The pipeline itself places a major problem on the president’s lap. Environmental groups vehemently oppose the construction of the pipeline, while labor unions want it built for the 42,100 direct and indirect jobs the construction would create.
Both of these groups are key Democratic voting blocks, meaning that a decision from the president regarding the pipeline could alienate one of the two very quickly.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has argued against the construction of the pipeline himself, saying “The issue is that the scientific community is overwhelmingly in agreement that climate change is real. That climate change is caused by human activity. That climate change is the most devastating planetary crisis facing our planet. That climate change has already caused serious problems in our country.”
Sanders’ views are indicative of the outspoken environmental opinion surrounding the pipeline, and the environmental lobby is sure to pressure Democrats such as Reid to block the pipeline’s construction.