WASHINGTON (AP) - A political gambit by an endangered Senate Democrat broke loose long-stalled legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as Congress returned to a Capitol where results of last week’s Republican blowout are still sinking in.
Sen. Mary Landrieu of energy-rich Louisiana, facing an uphill fight to hold her seat in a Dec. 6 runoff, called for the vote on approving the long-stalled pipeline project.
Senate passage of the bill as early as this week would force President Barack Obama to either sign it into law or veto the measure just weeks after devastating Democratic losses in the Nov. 4 elections. Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline, which environmentalists maintain would have a negative impact and contribute to climate change.
Republicans and several moderate Democrats insist that construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs.
The pipeline is critical to Canada, which needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production, and the Obama administration’s delays have caused friction between the two countries.
The White House stopped short of directly threatening a veto, but spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama takes a ”dim view’ of legislative efforts to force action on the project. Earnest reiterated Obama’s preference for evaluating the pipeline through a long-stalled State Department review.
It was unclear what impact the votes would have on Louisiana’s Senate race.
Republicans swept the midterm congressional elections, wresting control of the Senate and expanding their majority in the House. The Republicans are assured of 53 of the 100 Senate seats when the new Congress takes office in January. Louisiana would make it 54.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Landrieu spoke of bipartisanship and her willingness to work with Republicans. She pressed for a speedy vote on Keystone.
Echoing Landrieu’s plea were moderate Democrats from Republican states, who argued for the project that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast. The southern leg of the pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas is already operational.
The Republican sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, said the measure has the support of all 45 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the still Democratic-controlled Senate. It will be incumbent upon Landrieu to persuade four more Democrats to back the measure to reach the 60-vote threshold.