Senate panel advances Keystone bill, but Pelosi confident veto would stand

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2015 - A bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is headed to the Senate floor next week after the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the measure on a near party-line vote, 13-9.

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West Virgina Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been working with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., to pass the bill was the lone Democrat to support the legislation.

The GOP-controlled panel blocked an amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., aimed at putting committee members on record on the issue of climate change. Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, persuaded committee members to hold other amendments until the bill is on the Senate floor. Debate is expected to start Monday.
  

The committee vote was no surprise. The bigger question is whether Republicans can overcome a presidential veto and, if they can't, what their next step will be.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Wednesday that supporters were still four votes short of the 67 needed in the Senate to override a veto, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed confidence Thursday that a veto could be sustained.

The committee debate provided a preview of some of the amendments that could be debated. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, talked about energy efficiency provisions he's expected to pull out of legislation he has cosponsored with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

Manchin indicated he could support an amendment to require the pipeline's owner to pay into an oil spill liability trust fund, an issue raised by the committee's ranking Democrat, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Sanders is certain to force a floor debate on climate change. 

Cantwell and other Democrats argued that it was premature to shut down the administration's review process for Keystone for the benefit of its Canadian builder. They also warned that the pipeline could raise gasoline prices in the Midwest when the crude is diverted from refineries there to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

“The bill has a lot of risks and very few benefits for Americans,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Senators on both sides portrayed the bill in grand terms. Murkowski said “the world is watching to see whether the United States is ready to lead as a global energy superpower.” Hoeven said the debate will be a “test case to see if we can come together … and get something done for the American people.”

But Sanders said passing the bill would signal that the United States was committed to fossil fuels rather than addressing climate change. “We are moving in exactly the wrong direction,” he said.

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Before the committee began, Murkowski announced that the committee would move a comprehensive energy bill late this spring. She did not provide any specifics of what might be in the legislation but said it would have four broad titles on "broadening supply, modernizing infrastructure, supporting efficiency and ensuring federal accountability."

"As we move ahead with it, I am optimistic that we will find considerable common ground, at least as a starting point," she said.
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