WASHINGTON May 7 Democratic U.S. Senator Mary
Landrieu accused Republicans on Wednesday of being more
interested in exploiting the long-delayed Keystone XL oil
pipeline project as an election issue than in voting to build
In a speech on the Senate floor, Landrieu, who represents
the oil-producing state of Louisiana where public support for
Keystone runs high, urged Republican leaders to reverse
themselves and accept a deal offered by Senate Majority Leader
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said that if Republicans allow
passage of a bipartisan energy bill, he would permit a separate
vote on Keystone, a project that polls show most Americans
Environmentalists oppose Keystone - which would bring more
than 800,000 barrels a day from Canada's oil sands to refineries
in Texas - saying it could lead to spills and emissions linked
to climate change. Backers say it would increase energy
independence and create thousands of jobs.
Republicans have joined Landrieu and 10 other Democrats in
seeking a vote on Keystone. But Republicans now say they also
want votes on a number of amendments to the energy bill,
including one to prevent the Obama administration from imposing
new regulations on coal-fired power plants.
With Reid refusing to permit amendments on the energy bill,
Republicans are expected to stop the bill with a procedural
roadblock on Monday. That would likely kill the legislation and
see the offer for a Keystone vote withdrawn as well.
It is unclear if the Senate, where Democrats hold a 55-45
majority, could muster the 60 votes needed to pass a bill to
take the authority to approve Keystone away from President
Barack Obama and give it to Congress. Even if it did, Obama
could veto the measure.
But a Senate vote would show bipartisan support for Keystone
and build pressure on Obama to end years of delays and studies
and approve the project.
Landrieu, who faces a tough re-election battle this
November, said: "The time for studying is over. The time for
building is now." She said the way to do that was to press Obama
with a Keystone vote.
"My question to my Republican friends is: 'Do you want to
build the Keystone pipeline or do you want an issue to talk
about'" heading into the November election. "I think they want
an issue to talk about," she said.
Republican leaders say it is the first time in years a major
energy bill has been before the Senate and that they should be
able to offer amendments.
Landrieu read aloud pro-Keystone comments by a number of
Republicans who she said now seemed more intent on demanding
votes on energy amendments that have no chance of becoming law.
"You've heard a lot about amendments, amendments,
amendments," Landrieu said, adding the more important question
was: "Are we going to vote to build the Keystone pipeline?"
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Peter Cooney and Ken