Mark Udall Can’t Shake His Keystone Headache

Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks during a taping of 'Meet the Press' at the NBC studios September 28, 2008 in Washington, DC. Udall is running for the U.S. Senate seat which will be vacated by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO). 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
June 12, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

Mark Ud­all is in a tough spot, again.

The Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee will vote on le­gis­la­tion to ap­prove the Key­stone XL pipeline next Wed­nes­day. And that cre­ates a polit­ic­al head­ache for the sen­at­or.

The Col­or­ado Demo­crat is try­ing to hold onto his Sen­ate seat in a state with ex­tens­ive oil and gas de­vel­op­ment and a strong en­vir­on­ment­al streak. Ud­all has tried to play to both sides. He sup­ports oil and gas pro­duc­tion but has also won ap­plause from green groups. On Thursday, LCV Ac­tion Fund of­fi­cially en­dorsed the sen­at­or in his race against Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Cory Gard­ner.

Ob­serv­ers on both sides have been clam­or­ing to put Ud­all on re­cord on the pipeline. He voted against a non­bind­ing pro-Key­stone res­ol­u­tion when it came to the Sen­ate floor last year. He man­aged to sidestep a vote, however, last month when it seemed likely that a bill to fast-track the pro­ject would come to the Sen­ate floor.

He’s un­likely to catch a break this time around. But rather than sid­ing with one group over the oth­er, Ud­all is mak­ing his vote a judg­ment call on the ap­prov­al pro­cess rather than the pipeline it­self. “Sen­at­or Ud­all in­tends to again re­ject the no­tion that law­makers know bet­ter than the en­gin­eers, sci­ent­ists, and ex­perts whose re­spons­ib­il­ity it is to eval­u­ate the pipeline ap­plic­a­tion on its mer­its,” a spokes­man for the sen­at­or said Thursday.

Ud­all’s chal­lenger im­me­di­ately hit back. “Col­oradans will watch with dis­ap­point­ment as Sen­at­or Ud­all casts his fourth vote against the Key­stone XL pipeline, and the jobs and eco­nom­ic growth it would cre­ate,” a spokes­man for the Gard­ner cam­paign said. 

And don’t ex­pect Ud­all to get any sym­pathy from com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Mary Landrieu. The Louisi­ana Demo­crat is also up for reelec­tion. But for Landrieu, a vote to ap­prove the pipeline is a polit­ic­al win­ner. She’s a co­spon­sor of the bill up for con­sid­er­a­tion, and she’s pushed hard for a vote. Landrieu is sure to tout her sup­port for the pro­ject next week. She’ll also use the oc­ca­sion to high­light her power as chair­wo­man, des­pite the fact that the bill may nev­er make it out of com­mit­tee.

Landrieu and Ud­all may be mem­bers of the same polit­ic­al party. But when it comes to the midterms, it’s every wo­man for her­self.

Jason PlautzBen Geman contributed to this article.
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