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Friday, March 22, 2013

Keystone Pipeline wins big in Senate

The Senate issued a symbolic, filibuster-proof endorsement of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday evening, further increasing the pressure on President Barack Obama to green-light the project despite massive resistance from his environmental base.

Seventeen Democrats joined all of the Senate’s Republicans in a 62-37 vote for Sen. John Hoeven’s budget amendment urging approval of TransCanada’s oil pipeline.

Senators also resoundingly defeated, 33-66, an amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that called for “expeditiously analyzing and making decisions” on the pipeline project. Boxer's proposal included a long list of criteria for the review, including whether the pipeline would increase oil prices, use materials not manufactured in the U.S., affect individual property rights and otherwise “adversely [affect] job creation” and national security.

“Both of these votes make it very clear that the Senate will approve this project if the president doesn’t,” Hoeven (R-N.D.) boasted to reporters afterward.

And Hoeven has reason for optimism.

While the Hoeven amendment is nonbinding and may never even become law, its victory and the lopsided defeat of Boxer’s amendment may signal pent-up frustration over how long the federal review of Keystone has already taken.

House Republicans have been able to get the needed majority support in their chamber to approve the pipeline, in votes stretching back to last Congress, but Friday’s vote gave pipeline supporters a filibuster-proof Senate margin for the first time on language calling for the project’s approval. A binding amendment Hoeven offered last Congress received 56 votes. Hoeven had complained that that vote lost only because of arm-twisting by the White House. (Continues)

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