* Increasingly unlikely Senate will vote on Keystone oil
* Stalemate could kill bipartisan energy bill
* Some Republicans fear Keystone vote would boost Democrat
(Recasts to reflect stalemate, adds Reid comment)
WASHINGTON, May 6 The U.S. Senate agreed on
Tuesday to advance a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, but it
could die unless lawmakers end a stalemate on how to proceed
with the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
The Senate voted 79-20 to move toward a debate on the energy
bill, making it the first big energy legislation to reach the
Senate floor since 2007.
Sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New
Hampshire and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the White
House-backed bill would save energy through tougher building
codes and by making the federal government install new
Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has offered
to hold a vote on a separate bill to provide congressional
approval of Keystone if Republicans allow passage of the energy
measure, a version of which has already passed the House of
But Republicans want to add amendments, including one that
would take the decision on TransCanada's Corp's
Keystone pipeline out of President Barack Obama's hands and give
it to Congress.
Late on Tuesday, Republicans reiterated their demand for
amendments, and Reid made it clear he does not intend to permit
The stalemate could end up killing the energy bill and
preventing a vote on Keystone. Democrats hold the Senate by a
55-45 margin, but 60 votes are needed to end Republican
procedural hurdles and clear the way for passage of legislation.
The State Department recently delayed a decision on
Keystone, likely until after the November congressional
A Senate Republican aide said it was increasingly appearing
that talks to get a vote on Keystone had stalled.
The aide said some Republicans have concluded that the main
benefit of a vote on Keystone would be to boost the re-election
chances of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.
Landrieu has long called on the Obama administration to
approve Keystone. Some Republicans fear that such a vote in the
Senate could support her central campaign theme of being an
But other Republican aides said their party would welcome a
The pipeline would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day
from Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas.
Environmentalists oppose Keystone because they say it would
lead to more spills and emissions linked to climate change.
Backers say it would strengthen North American energy security
and create thousands of construction jobs.
Even if Congress passes legislation to approve Keystone,
Obama could veto the measure and likely would have the votes to
sustain a veto.
Other amendments that Republicans want to offer include one
to block new emission standards for coal-powered plants, to
allow export of liquefied natural gas and to prevent imposition
of a federal tax on carbon pollution.
Shaheen said her bill would save consumers and businesses
$16 billion a year in energy use and create jobs. The bill has
wide support from environmental and business groups.
"The time is now for the Senate to pass this bill," Shaheen
said on the Senate floor. "We can't let extraneous debate on
amendments to get in the way of getting this legislation done."
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Timothy Gardner and Richard
Cowan; Editing by Ros Krasny and Dan Grebler)