Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, facing a tough re-election campaign, will likely vote against a measure to force construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline this week.
“Sen. Udall has been eminently clear that Congress should not inject politics into the administration’s ongoing review process,” spokesman Mike Saccone told Denver’s Fox 31. “That’s why he voted against Democratic and Republican amendments that attempted to dictate a result on the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”
“Any votes this week on the pipeline wouldn’t be any different,” he said.
That puts him at odds with a majority of Colorado voters and a plurality of his own supporters who would like to see the pipeline built. It also gives Gardner the opportunity to use the vote against him as the campaigns heat up.
President Obama recently delayed a decision on the pipeline until after the midterm election, but Congress is poised to consider a measure that would bypass the administration and allow construction to proceed.
Other Democrats facing tough challengers support the pipeline proposal and even if it ultimately fails — sponsors may not yet have enough votes for the required 60 needed for success — they can tout their “yes” votes to constituents.
Udall is in a much more difficult position than other Democrats, however, having long groomed himself as an environmentalist dedicated to fighting climate change. Anti-Keystone groups organized phone banks and protests outside Democratic senators’ office around the country this week, including in Colorado, to urge a no vote.
Udall is also courting California billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged to donate $100 million to campaigns and candidates fighting climate change. Steyer is also reportedly ready to take a stance on another hot-button issue Udall has danced around for months — fracking.
According to reports, Steyer is considering supporting a likely Colorado ballot measure that would allow local communities to ban fracking. Millionaire Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is bankrolling the measure, illustrating a rift in the Democratic Party around the practice.
Opponents include Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper — who’s also seeking re-election — and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who argue that banning fracking would cost Colorado dearly, in both jobs and revenue.
Gardner has called on Udall to oppose the anti-fracking initiative, leaving Udall to walk an ever-finer line to try to appease everyone.
“My belief would be to sit down and come up with an approach that all parties agree to rather than squaring off with a series of ballot initiatives,” Udall said in the Wall Street Journal. “I respect Congressman Polis’s point of view. He is very concerned about public health, local control and having the right balance between those important factors in energy development.”
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