Senator Reid opens door to Keystone pipeline vote

WASHINGTON Tue Apr 29, 2014 8:15pm EDT

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) answers questions from reporters after the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 11, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) answers questions from reporters after the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in an abrupt election-year shift in strategy, opened the possibility on Tuesday of allowing a vote on congressional approval of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

"I'm open to anything that will move energy efficiency," Reid, a long-time foe of the project, told reporters.

He was referring to a bill that would save energy through tougher building codes sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, that the Senate is expected to consider as early as next week.

Details were unclear, but in exchange for Republicans supporting the efficiency bill, Reid could permit a vote on a measure that would allow Congress to approve the bill of the pipeline. The vote could allow Democratic senators facing tough elections in November to be seen as supporting the project.

But even if the bill passes the Senate and a similar bill passes in the House of Representatives, it is likely that President Barack Obama would veto it.

The Obama administration has been considering the pipeline for more than five years. Earlier this month, the State Department said it would again delay a decision on the pipeline until the Nebraska Supreme Court settles a dispute over the path of the pipeline, effectively delaying the decision until after the November 4 elections.

"We are discussing what to do," a senior Democratic aide said, making no prediction on when a decision would be made on whether to allow a vote on TransCanada Corp's pipeline. The project would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy oil from Canada's Alberta province to refineries in Texas.

"I'm trying to work something out," Reid told reporters. "But they (Senate Keystone backers) keep moving the ball."

Reid said Republicans initially wanted a non-binding sense of the Senate vote on Keystone. But now they are pushing to be allowed to offer an amendment or other measure that allows Congress to force approval the project.

"We ought to have a vote that matters," said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota.

ELECTION STRATEGY

Democratic Senators up for reelection in November, such as Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, support the pipeline.

A Democratic political strategist, speaking on the condition he not be identified by name, said there are two reasons why Reid is now open to a Keystone vote.

"First, he wants to get Shaheen-Portman to the floor. Democrats really want to legislate and move this bill, and a Keystone vote could help clear the way," the strategist said.

"The other reason is to give Democrats like Landrieu a chance to be on the record in support of Keystone," he said.

The White House has threatened to veto previous attempts by Congress to force approval of the project.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Timothy Gardner and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Ros Krasny, Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)

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Comments (3)
tatman wrote:
NO! NO! NO! there is no reason why we should be promoting the movement of the most environmentally unsafe and damaging crude across thousands of miles of american soil to sell to ASIA. the keystone pipeline will create only a small amount of temporary jobs, but will cost america billions in cleanup dollars and environmental catastrophe should there be a rupture in the pipeline in the future. also, the use of this crude is proven to be a direct contributor to climate change, and should be abandoned in favor of cheaper, clean energy sources. all the oil industry studies saying this crude is “safe” are a fraud, and are eliminating tons of data relating to the damage being done at the source point in canada during the extraction process. NO TO KEYSTONE!

Apr 30, 2014 8:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Garyfan wrote:
Well, tatman, it looks like somebody got the NRDC talking points memo.

Apr 30, 2014 1:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Yes! Yes! Yes! Pipelines are environmentally safer that other modes of transport. The oil is coming to the US whether you like it or not. The oil will be refined in the Gulf Coast and most of the gasoline will be consumed domestically. A small portion will be exported back into Canada and down to Mexico. Due to lack of demand in the US, some diesel will be exported to Europe. The jobs are not just affiliated with the pipeline itself; this also affects good-paying middle class jobs at refineries and service providers to the refining sector. There are no cheaper, clean energy sources to power vehicles currently, and there won’t be for at least a decade. Emotional appeals will not convince anyone that we don’t need affordable fuels in the near term.

May 01, 2014 9:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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