On Keystone, Politics Is Thicker Than Oil

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. Landrieu is part of a Louisiana political dynasty. Her father, Moon Landrieu, was mayor of New Orleans in the 1970s, and her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is the city's current mayor. But Landrieu's 1995 run for governor was anything but a coronation. She finished a disappointing third place in the primary. But she recovered quickly, winning her Senate seat the following year.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
June 18, 2014, 11:19 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans are work­ing hard to pre­vent Mary Landrieu from win­ning polit­ic­al trac­tion with her ef­forts to ad­vance the Key­stone XL pipeline.

The cri­ti­cism of the pro-Key­stone Demo­crat Landrieu from pro-Key­stone Re­pub­lic­ans is a les­son in elec­tion-year polit­ics: Policy agree­ment with the oth­er side means little when con­trol of the Sen­ate is at stake.

Landrieu, who is fa­cing a tough reelec­tion battle for her Sen­ate seat in Louisi­ana, suc­cess­fully steered pro-Key­stone le­gis­la­tion through the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day — but even while sid­ing with the GOP, she could not es­cape cri­ti­cism from a seni­or Re­pub­lic­an, who called it a point­less move.

“I do ques­tion the pur­pose of today’s vote,” said Sen. John Bar­rasso, who heads the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee, ahead of the vote in the com­mit­tee that Landrieu chairs. “With all due re­spect this vote seems more like a cheer­lead­ing ex­er­cise than a mean­ing­ful ef­fort to get Key­stone built.”

“The obstacle of get­ting Key­stone built is Sen­at­or Re­id and mem­bers of the Sen­ate who con­tin­ue to elect him ma­jor­ity lead­er,” Bar­rasso said.

Bar­rasso voted for the bill, which would ap­prove the pro­ject that has long been stalled un­der White House re­view. He was joined by oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans as well as Landrieu and fel­low Demo­crat Joe Manchin of West Vir­gin­ia, while oth­er Demo­crats op­posed it.

The RPC that Bar­rasso leads went after Landrieu in even tough­er terms Tues­day, ques­tion­ing her clout and call­ing the com­mit­tee ac­tion a “show vote.”

But Landrieu fired back at the Wyom­ing Re­pub­lic­an be­fore the vote, chal­len­ging the idea that she’s merely sta­ging a piece of polit­ic­al theat­er.

“There was no pop­corn and Coca-Cola handed out today in this meet­ing, and there were no tick­ets sold to get in here,” Landrieu said, ad­dress­ing Bar­rasso dir­ectly. “This is the United States Sen­ate.”

“This is the En­ergy Com­mit­tee, and those of us are priv­ileged to serve on it. This is about what the fu­ture of our en­ergy policy should look like. And I be­lieve that work­ing with Canada and Mex­ico to cre­ate a North Amer­ic­an en­ergy al­li­ance that sup­ports the needs of this na­tion and sup­ports a grow­ing eco­nomy is crit­ic­al,” she ad­ded in re­marks that be­gin at the one-hour, five-minute mark here.

Landrieu said she’ll work to get a vote in the full Sen­ate, al­though Re­id was non­com­mit­tal at best about the idea on Tues­day.

And Bar­rasso is just one of sev­er­al GOP of­fi­cials to make the case that Landrieu’s Key­stone ad­vocacy means noth­ing as long as Demo­crats are in charge of the Sen­ate.

On Wed­nes­day, ahead of the com­mit­tee vote, the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee re­leased a new Web ad at­tack­ing Landrieu’s clout, not­ing that ef­forts to have a Key­stone vote in the full Sen­ate fell apart in May.

And Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell piled on, call­ing it a “show” vote and say­ing: “The ques­tion isn’t wheth­er en­ergy-state Demo­crats can sup­port a Key­stone bill in com­mit­tee — it’s wheth­er or not they’ll con­tin­ue to stand with their party and their lead­er in block­ing the full Sen­ate from vot­ing on it,” the Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an said.

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