The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The Senate failed Wednesday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of Keystone XL pipeline legislation, ending for now attempts by Congress to speed up approval of the controversial energy project.

Falling short of the two-thirds majority needed, Republicans backers of the pipeline could not peel off enough Democratic supporters to join them. The vote was 62-37, with all Republicans and eight Democrats in favor.

The outcome was the latest setback for the GOP-led Congress, which made passage of Keystone a top priority. It served up a victory for the White House on the first major veto of Obama’s administration.

“For a long time, projects like Keystone used to be no-brainers — they were often approved without much controversy at all,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who made the bill the first order of business when he took control of the chamber in January. “But that was before powerful special interest groups and ideological extremists decided to embark on a quixotic quest.”

Noting the significance of the override attempt, McConnell required senators to take the roll call vote from their desks, a rare practice reserved for landmark votes.

Democratic opponents said halting the project was the right decision. Critics of the pipeline argue it would prolong energy dependence on fossil fuels and worsen climate change.

“Why would be build a pipeline to bring filthy, dirty oil to our great nation, to our communities?” asked Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “The only thing it helps, frankly, are the special interests in Canada.”

In many ways, the debate over the Keystone project has become more about politics than substance, as rhetoric on both sides escalated.

The vote also showed the limits of the new Republican Congress in the face of the president’s veto power, which was rarely used when Democrats controlled Congress.

The $8 billion project proposed by the TransCanada Corp. would carry oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province through the U.S. heartland.

The Obama administration might still approve the project. But the White House opposed the attempt by Congress to expedite approval, especially while a court case is underway in Nebraska, where the path of the pipeline splits to run east through Missouri and south to the Gulf Coast.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill earlier this year to push approval after years of delay. Many Democrats joined the Republican-led effort.

Supporters said the project would create needed American jobs, and a federal review said more than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs would be created during pipeline construction. Later, however, there would be only 35 permanent U.S. jobs during pipeline operation, the review said.

As oil prices tumbled last year, some experts questioned whether the pipeline project made financial sense. Backers insist the project will continue.

With the outcome in the Senate, rules prevent the House from taking its own override vote.

Photo: Rainforest Action Network via Flickr


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

President Joe Biden

The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden's fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn't Bush's fault, either.

We don't have to like today's inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden's doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.

Keep reading... Show less
Youtube Screenshot

Heat deaths in the U.S. peak in July and August, and as that period kicks off, a new report from Public Citizen highlights heat as a major workplace safety issue. With basically every year breaking heat records thanks to climate change, this is only going to get worse without significant action to protect workers from injury and death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that government data on heat-related injury, illness, and death on the job are “likely vast underestimates.” Those vast underestimates are “about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020” and an average of 40 fatalities a year. Looking deeper, Public Citizen found, “An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone—an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}