The U.S. Senate failed, by one vote (as some observers predicted), to advance legislation demanding that President Obama approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
New York Times opinion-page writer David Firestone says the debate surrounding the vote — 59 senators approved, including 14 Democrats, leaving the measure shy of the 60 “yeas” needed to avoid a filibuster threat — was a “pointless” one that played into Republican hands:
The bill to approve the pipeline failed by one vote, and even if had passed, it would almost certainly have been vetoed by President Obama. The debate provided no new insights into the value of the pipeline, or its liabilities, and it changed no one’s mind.
As for why Democrats sought to push their own pro-Keystone bill during a lame-duck session before Republicans take over as the majority in the Senate in January, The Times opines that it amounted to a last-ditch and probably futile effort to save Sen. Mary Landrieu’s job. The Louisiana Democrat is competing against Congressman Bill Cassidy, who got his own pro-Keystone bill approved in the House, for Landrieu’s seat in a runoff election next month.
The Times’ coverage of Tuesday’s approval of the Senate measure includes a section on the lengths Landrieu went to convince colleagues to pass the measure:
At the lunch, Ms. Landrieu made an “impassioned plea” that at moments verged on tears, according to a Democrat. Ms. Landrieu, according to the Democrat, focused part of her pitch on how the legislation would help her back home, though at one point she argued that Democrats should send the bill to Mr. Obama’s desk because it would help him politically by giving him something to veto.
So what happens next? The president has the final say on whether the 1,179-mile pipeline extension gets built, regardless of what happens in Congress. But the next Congress could force him to either approve the bill (possibly after trading for something from Republican leadership) or veto it.
A Q&A in Wednesday’s NYT hints that the new, more heavily Republican Senate that convenes in January “may be able to muster a nearly veto-proof majority,” considering their ranks will swell from 45 to 54 (assuming Landrieu loses). But they need 67 votes to override a presidential veto.