Mary Landrieu Is Still One Vote Short on Keystone

Ahead of a vote to green-light the oil-sands pipeline, the Louisiana Democrat looks just shy of a filibuster-proof majority.

Keystone Pipeline
National Journal
Nov. 14, 2014, 7:33 a.m.

Up­dated Tues­day, Nov. 18, 2014.

Mary Landrieu is one vote away from achiev­ing a polit­ic­al dream.

With 60 votes, the em­battled Louisi­ana Demo­crat could se­cure a fili­buster-proof ma­jor­ity to ap­prove the Key­stone XL pipeline when a bill she has sponsored au­thor­iz­ing the pro­ject comes to the Sen­ate floor next Tues­day.

But Landrieu does not ap­pear to have 60 votes—at least not yet. And des­pite ex­press­ing con­fid­ence that she’ll pre­vail, Landrieu ap­peared stuck a single vote shy on Tues­day morn­ing.

For months, it has looked like there are at least 57 Sen­ate votes in sup­port of the long-stalled pro­ject, which would trans­port heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands to re­finer­ies along the Gulf Coast. Last week, that count rose to 59.

The pickups are Demo­crats: Sens. Thomas Carp­er of Delaware and Mi­chael Ben­net of Col­or­ado.

Carp­er is a def­in­ite “yes.” A spokes­man for the sen­at­or told Na­tion­al Journ­al that Carp­er “has pledged his sup­port for the Ho­even-Landrieu le­gis­la­tion.”

Landrieu told re­port­ers on a call Fri­day that Ben­net is also ex­pec­ted to vote in fa­vor of the bill. 

But that still leaves the sen­at­or one vote shy of the 60 votes she needs to block a fili­buster.

Whip watch­ers have been eye­ing Demo­crat­ic Sen. Chris­toph­er Coons of Delaware in hopes that he might join the “yes” camp. But a spokes­man for the sen­at­or told Na­tion­al Journ­al that Coons “plans to vote against the straight au­thor­iz­a­tion bill” be­cause he be­lieves the de­cision is the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s to make.

Key­stone back­ers had also hoped to ex­tract a “yes” from Demo­crat­ic Sen. Bill Nel­son of Flor­ida. But Nel­son’s of­fice told Na­tion­al Journ­al the sen­at­or will vote “no” next week. Nel­son sup­ports the pipeline but would only vote to au­thor­ize the pro­ject if the le­gis­la­tion guar­an­teed that oil sent through the pipeline would not be ex­por­ted. The bill up for con­sid­er­a­tion does not in­clude an ex­port ban. 

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Ud­all of Col­or­ado will also vote to re­ject the le­gis­la­tion, a spokes­man for Ud­all told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

In­de­pend­ent Sen­at­or An­gus King of Maine an­nounced Tues­day that he op­poses the le­gis­la­tion, say­ing that “Con­gress is not — nor should it be — in the busi­ness of le­gis­lat­ing the ap­prov­al or dis­ap­prov­al of a con­struc­tion pro­ject.”

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Cory Book­er of New Jer­sey said on Twit­ter Sat­uday that he will vote against the bill. 

A spokes­man for Demo­crat­ic Sen. Chuck Schu­mer of New York, who had pre­vi­ously been si­lent on how he would vote, said Monday that Schu­mer will vote “no.”

A spokes­man for Sen. Robert Men­en­dez of New Jer­sey told Na­tion­al Journ­al on Monday that he will vote “no.”

Sen­at­or Tammy Bald­win, a Demo­crat from Wis­con­sin, said Monday she will also op­pose the bill. 

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller told re­port­ers on Monday that he will vote against the le­gis­la­tion. 

Back­ers had also been eye­ing Demo­crat­ic Sen. Carl Lev­in of Michigan as a pos­sible “yes”. Lev­in told re­port­ers at the Cap­it­ol on Monday, however, that he plans to vote “no.” 

Landrieu re­mains un­deterred. Landrieu told re­port­ers at the Cap­it­ol on Monday that she feels com­fort­able she has 60 votes to se­cure pas­sage of the le­gis­la­tion adding that she might even have more than 60 votes. She de­clined to say which Sen­at­or she is count­ing on to de­liv­er the 60th vote. “You nev­er know about these things,” she said in the Cap­it­ol. 

The Louisi­ana Demo­crat is hop­ing that Key­stone ap­prov­al could give her a boost back home, where she faces a tight run­off race against Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Bill Cas­sidy.

Even if Landrieu reaches the 60-vote threshold, however, the White House has hin­ted it may veto the bill.

Pres­id­ent Obama told re­port­ers in Burma Fri­day that he would not look kindly on le­gis­lat­ive at­tempts to “short-cir­cuit” the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s on­go­ing re­view of the pro­ject.

The pres­id­ent has long said he will ap­prove the pipeline only if it does not sub­stan­tially add to the amount of car­bon di­ox­ide in the at­mo­sphere. The White House is also await­ing a re­com­mend­a­tion from Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry on wheth­er to green-light the pro­ject. 

But a Key­stone XL bill is cer­tain to cross the pres­id­ent’s desk. If not next week, then next year.

The Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled House passed a bill ap­prov­ing the pipeline Fri­day on a 252-161 vote. And soon-to-be Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has vowed to pass le­gis­la­tion ap­prov­ing the pro­ject. When he does, the Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate will have a fili­buster-proof ma­jor­ity in sup­port of Key­stone XL.

Jason Plautz and Ben Geman contributed to this article.
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