First job for new Republican Senate is Keystone XL: McConnell

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 16, 2014 3:38 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new Republican-controlled Senate's first act in January will be approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.

McConnell told reporters that the bill would be based on a measure that failed in the Senate last month that was co-sponsored by North Dakota Republican John Hoeven and Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu.

"It'll be open for amendment," McConnell said. "I will hope that senators on both sides will offer energy-related amendments but there'll be no effort to try to micromanage the amendment process."

Landrieu pushed for a Keystone vote in November in a last-ditch effort to persuade voters in energy-rich Louisiana to re-elect her to a fourth term.

But her gambit fell just one vote short of Senate passage despite winning significant support from Democrats. Landrieu was solidly defeated in a Dec. 6 runoff election by Republican Representative Bill Cassidy, setting the Senate's final post-election split at 54 Republicans to 46 Democrats.

But even with Senate control, Republicans still may find it difficult to win the 67 votes needed to override a veto from President Barack Obama.

Obama had been widely expected to veto the November measure forcing approval of TransCanada Corp's project, which would connect Canada's oil sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. A Nebraska court will soon rule on whether the state's governor had the right to push through the pipeline's route through the state, and Obama has questioned whether the project would do anything to lower fuel prices in the United States or simply facilitate petroleum exports.

Construction workers, unions and energy companies say the pipeline, which would transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta through Nebraska en route to the Gulf of Mexico, would create thousands of jobs.

But the project has galvanized environmentalists who say developing Canada's oil sands would spike carbon emissions linked to climate change and that much of the oil or refined products would be sold abroad.

(Reporting By David Lawder; Editing by Grant McCool)