* Reid has long opposed legislative efforts to approve
* Strategist says Reid support is about election and energy
(Adds background, strategist on why Reid may be open to vote)
By Timothy Gardner and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, April 29 U.S. 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 Nov. 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.
Democratic Senators up for reelection in November, such as
Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, support
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)