Senate gives symbolic approval of Keystone XL pipeline

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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The Senate made a show of support for the Keystone XL Pipeline on Friday, when a bipartisan majority voted in favor of an amendment to urge its approval.

The amendment, proposed by North Dakota Republican Sen. Jon Hoeven, would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to promote … the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.”

It passed by a 62-37 margin, with 17 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the measure.

Among those were several Democratic senators who face re-election next year in red-leaning states: Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Max Baucus of Montana.

Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Chris Coons, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Johnson, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Bill Nelson, John Tester and Mark Warner also voted in favor of the amendment.

Senators voted on the amendment during a marathon session Friday known as a vote-a-rama, along with many other proposed amendments to the budget. All votes in the vote-a-rama are non-binding, so this vote will produce no immediate concrete action. But it is indicative of support for the pipeline in the chamber.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been a divisive issue. Proponents say it will create numerous jobs, while opponents contend it would have a detrimental effect on the environment.

This is the first time the Senate has voted on the pipeline.

The Senate also rejected a counter-amendment from California Sen. Barbara Boxer that called for further analysis before making a decision on the pipeline, based on a number of criteria. That bill was rejected by a 33-66 margin.

President Barack Obama rejected the proposal to build the pipeline last year, but has indicated that he could be reconsidering.

In a meeting with House Republicans last week, Obama discussed the pipeline. According to Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, who attended the meeting, “he said there’d be some news on that in the next few weeks.”

Gardner said he was optimistic, saying “the way he said ‘there will be news on that in the next couple weeks’ was more positive than negative.”

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