WHOLESALE REPUBLICAN ENVIRONMENT SELLOUT STOPPED BY 1 VOTE
Temecula, CA – Holy Moley!! What a week of good news for all my label GMO friends, many of whom
Senate Democrats, by a single vote, stopped legislation that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the most fractious and expensive battles of the Obama presidency.
The vote represented a victory for the environmental movement, but the fight had taken on larger dimensions as a proxy war between Republicans, who argued that the project was vital for job creation, and President Obama, who had delayed a decision on building it.
Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who is facing a runoff election Dec. 6, had pleaded with her colleagues throughout the day to support the pipeline, leading to a rare suspense-filled roll call in the Senate. But she was ultimately rebuffed and fell short by one. The bill was defeated with 59 votes in favor and 41 against, and Ms. Landrieu needing 60 votes to proceed.
The vote was also a reflection of how a once-obscure pipeline blew up into a national political battle between environmentalists and the oil industry. Although the TransCanada company proposed the pipeline in 2005, it generated so little attention that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was poised to approve it in 2011 with little fanfare.
But at that point, environmentalists looking to press Mr. Obama to act on climate change issues seized it as a potent symbol, leading to protests outside the White House and millions of dollars from environmentalists and the oil industry poured into political races on both sides.
The political fallout, though, affected Ms. Landrieu more than the president, at least in the near term. She was able to persuade 14 Democrats to join all 45 Republicans to support the pipeline, but 40 Democrats and Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, combined to stop the legislation.
Republicans vowed to bring back the Keystone bill as soon as they return in January, when they will hold the majority. Speaking on the Senate floor moments after the vote, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the incoming majority leader, said that he would immediately bring up a Keystone bill when the new Senate convenes.
“For so many good reasons, we’ll be back with this after the first of the year,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a Republican who is poised to replace Ms. Landrieu as head of the Senate Energy Committee. “And I believe that the momentum we’ve gained means we’ll see progress and see this bill passed.”
Speaking after her bill was defeated, Ms. Landrieu — who stood ramrod straight with her hands clasped in front of her, watching over the vote in the center of the Senate floor — talked about fighting to pass the Keystone bill, but she very well could have been speaking of her own political future.
“I came here 18 years ago, fighting to get here, fighting to stay here, and I’m going to fight for the people of my state until the day that I leave — I hope that will not be soon,” Ms. Landrieu said. “There’s only joy in the fight. Where I come from, we just never talk about quitting, and we don’t talk about whining.”
But despite cajoling and browbeating her colleagues during a private lunch — which one attendee described as “civilized but pretty contentious” — Ms. Landrieu, who has so often bulldozed her way to success, was not able to produce that elusive final vote.
At the lunch, Ms. Landrieu made an “impassioned plea” that at moments verged on tears, according to a Democrat. Ms. Landrieu, according to the Democrat, focused part of her pitch on how the legislation would help her back home, though at one point she argued that Democrats should send the bill to Mr. Obama’s desk because it would help him politically by giving him something to veto.
Given the number of Democrats who supported the bill on Tuesday, Republicans may well be able to muster a filibuster-proof 60 votes to pass the pipeline in the next Congress, but they are still likely to fall a few votes short of 67, the number required to override a presidential veto.
Tuesday’s vote exposed to public view some of the contours and rifts in the Democratic Party, where many senators feel they have too often bent over backward to accommodate Ms. Landrieu and protect her Senate seat — one of the last remaining Democratic seats in the South. They finally revolted, in what they said was a vote of principle against legislation they believe would harm the environment.
Throughout her Senate career, Ms. Landrieu, a moderate who was known as the oil industry’s best friend in the Democratic Party, has clashed with the liberal environmental wing of her party.
She has for years pressed for votes on measures that infuriate them, such as expanding offshore drilling, while voting against measures to tackle climate change.
Those lawmakers took to the floor Tuesday to express their opposition to the Keystone pipeline, even as they acknowledged the importance of those votes to Ms. Landrieu’s political fate.
Environmental advocates had spent the week lobbying Democrats to ensure they would oppose Ms. Landrieu’s bill.
NextGen Climate, the advocacy group founded by the California billionaire Thomas Steyer, who spent over $50 million of his own money to back pro-environment Democrats in 2014, also hit supporters with emails asking them to urge senators to vote against the pipeline measure.
|Notice that this pipeline DOESN'T go through Louisiana|
“Today the U.S. Senate decided to stand on the right side of history,” Mr. Steyer said in a statement after the vote. “This is a legacy-defining issue where one’s position signifies whether they are standing up for or against the next generation on the issue of climate.”
The House, which passed the same legislation on Friday, had voted multiple times already to approve the pipeline. But Tuesday was the first time this year that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, had agreed to hold a vote on the bill, which he had feared could hurt the re-election chances of some of his more vulnerable members.
Both Ms. Landrieu and her Republican opponent, Representative Bill Cassidy, were eager to take credit for supporting the Keystone bill back home, where their state’s economy is heavily dependent on oil-industry jobs. Speaking on the floor, Republicans sought to cast the legislation as “Congressman Cassidy’s Keystone jobs bill,” while Democrats described it as Ms. Landrieu’s brainchild.
Ms. Landrieu had hoped that forcing a vote on the Senate floor would help her show Louisiana voters that she is still fighting for them in Washington.
Even if the Senate had passed the bill, Mr. Obama was not expected to sign it into law.
But the events of this week suggest that the president may eventually approve the pipeline. White House advisers have repeatedly said that they do not intend to make a final decision until a Nebraska court issues a verdict on the route of the pipeline through that state. That decision is expected to come as soon as January, the same month that a Republican-majority Congress can be expected to send another Keystone bill to the president’s desk — one that could be within a few votes of a veto-proof majority.
People familiar with the president’s thinking say that in 2015, he might use Keystone as a bargaining chip: He would offer Republicans approval of it in exchange for approval of one of his policies.
(Story by Ashley Parker, Coral Davenport – NY Times)