By Kathleen Hunter, Bloomberg News (TNS)
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate is on track to pass legislation to approve TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline by the end of the week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The Keystone legislation stalled in the Senate on Monday as Democrats raised objections about the number of amendments they’ve been allowed to offer.
The bill’s chief sponsor, North Dakota Republican John Hoeven, said Republicans were working with Democrats to develop a list of amendments in hopes of moving the bill forward.
“We’re just trying right now to get votes going on amendments,” Hoeven told reporters at the Capitol. He said it was “definitely realistic” to complete work on the bill this week.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the chamber’s third-ranking Republican, said, “I think so,” when asked if he was confident the bill would pass by the end of the week.
Republicans control the Senate 54-46. Because six Democrats have signed on as sponsors of the Keystone bill, there are expected to be enough votes for passage though not the two-thirds margin required to override a veto from President Barack Obama.
Supporters said they think they can still amass the votes for passage, even though they didn’t get the 60 votes needed for two procedural votes Monday. Several of the bill’s backers missed the vote and a few Democratic proponents voted no because of the dispute over amendments.
“It’s now time to get through the remaining amendments and vote up or down on the bill,” McConnell (R-KY) said earlier Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Two weeks ago, enough Democrats joined the majority Republicans to move the bill forward.
Democrats have accused McConnell of backing off his promise to allow both parties a chance to offer wide-ranging amendments to the bill. Republicans have pointed out that the Senate has voted on two dozen amendments — more than were voted on in all of 2014 under Democratic control of the Senate.
“Sen. McConnell promised Democrats an open amendment process and a full-throated debate on the Keystone pipeline, and we are holding him to that promise,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat.
Schumer accused McConnell of “trying to muzzle the debate.”
Backers of the pipeline say it will provide jobs and promote U.S. energy independence. Opponents say the project will create few permanent jobs, won’t boost domestic energy security and would pose environmental hazards.
Even Democratic opponents of the measure said they thought it would eventually pass.
Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said he told McConnell before Monday’s vote that Democrats want to “work together on a bipartisan basis.”
“Let’s do this in a conscientious, good-faith effort to complete this bill, and I think we can achieve it,” Durbin said he told McConnell.
The project would connect to an existing pipeline network, linking oil sands in Alberta, Canada, with U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr