Harry Reid Floats Keystone Vote — but What Is He Really Offering?

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) leaves the Capitol building on October 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. Congress continues to struggle to find a solution to end the government shutdown, which is currently in its 13th day. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
National Journal
Jason Plautz
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Jason Plautz
April 29, 2014, 1:43 p.m.

Republicans may get their long-awaited vote on the Keystone XL pipeline as early as next week as part of the debate over an energy-efficiency bill. But will it be the vote they want?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opened the door to a vote on the controversial oil-sands pipeline Tuesday as part of the debate on the Shaheen-Portman energy-efficiency bill. “I’m open to anything that will move energy efficiency,” Reid said in response to a question about a vote on the pipeline.

Sen. John Hoeven, the North Dakota Republican who’s been at the front of the Keystone approval push, said he’s been discussing a vote on congressional approval for the pipeline, not a looser sense-of-the-Senate resolution. A nonbinding resolution on approval or on an expedited timeline would have been acceptable until President Obama “changed the ballgame” by delaying the deadline for review of the pipeline’s permit, he said.

Reid told reporters Tuesday that he’s had conversations with Hoeven and fellow pipeline boosters Rob Portman, a Republican, and Democrat Mary Landrieu in the last 24 hours about pairing a Keystone vote to the energy bill. However, he left open how binding that vote could be.

“They keep moving the ball,” Reid said. “You know, originally it was going to be sense-of-the-Senate; now they can’t decide on what they want to vote on. So I can’t agree to something that I don’t know what it is.”

A nonbinding Sense of the Senate solution — which already gathered 62 votes on last year’s budget — does not seem acceptable to Republicans. In a statement, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said: “It’s easy to talk the talk, but it’s time for all members to walk the walk on the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Republicans also took to the floor Tuesday afternoon to discuss their support of the pipeline, which would bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oil-sands projects to the Gulf Coast.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, one of the sponsors of the energy-efficiency bill in question, said there’s been no agreement yet on the amendment process for the measure, which is expected to come to the floor next week. It’s unclear if the Keystone vote would be an amendment to the bill or brought up as a standalone, but Hoeven said that it must be attached to the energy bill in some form.

As he pushes to 60 votes, Hoeven said he has nearly all Republicans on board and a handful of Democrats, with six or seven “maybes.” However, it’s less likely that he will be able to garner 67 votes to overcome a presidential veto — leaving a vote in any form as largely symbolic.

CORRECTION: Sen. John Thune’s state was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

What We're Following See More »
Mueller Seeks Documents from DOJ
18 minutes ago

Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."

Trump May Be OK with Dropping Mandate Repeal
1 hours ago

"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."

Media Devoting More Resources to Lawmakers’ Sexual Misconduct
2 hours ago

"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."

Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
2 days ago
Steele Says Follow the Money
2 days ago

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.