GOP Tying Election Hopes To Keystone Support

The bill, introduced today by Sens. John Hoeven (N.D.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and David Vitter (La.), would allow TransCanada to build and operate the pipeline, defying President Obama's decision last month to deny its construction.

A large group of Republicans in the Senate have united on a measure to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

The bill, introduced today by Sens. John Hoeven (N.D.), Richard Lugar (Ind.) and David Vitter (La.), would allow TransCanada to build and operate the pipeline, defying President Obama’s decision last month to deny its construction. Despite that setback, the group of Senators believe they have the authority to green-light the project under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

With gas prices slowly rising, proponents of the pipeline argue that it would reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil by carrying an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Yet Obama and his administration have objected to it, citing environmental concerns. In fact, the proposed route of the pipeline would take it over a highly sensitive region in Nebraska known as the Sand Hills.

In acknowledgement of that, the GOP legislation requires the State Department to work with the State of Nebraska on finding an alternative route for the project within 30 days. The bill has the blessing of Nebraska’s Junior Senator, Mike Johanns.

“This pipeline is not only a national priority because of the energy and jobs it will bring, it’s also a Nebraska priority,” he said. “I believe we must move the project forward while still allowing Nebraska and TransCanada the time they need to find the right route through our state and this legislation does that.”

Despite the GOP’s support, the legislation faces steep odds. The bill has only one Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and the administration seems less than eager to re-litigate the issue.

When asked today to comment on the bill, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney effectively dismissed it — saying he had no opinion on it. Carney later suggested that “political partisan reasons” drove Republicans to attach the bill to a payroll tax cut extender in December.

But fueled by recent polling data showing that a majority of Americans disagree with the President’s decision, Republicans will likely continue to press for the pipeline throughout this election year.

It remains to be seen whether the handful of Republicans that have yet to sign on — Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) — will do so.

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Geoff Holtzman
Geoff Holtzman is Talk Radio News Service's Deputy Bureau Chief. As one of TRNS's primary correspondents, he helps cover the White House and Capitol Hill. Geoff also covered the 2012 presidential campaign, following the candidates to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and elsewhere. In the process, he learned that not all Motel 6's are created equal. Follow Geoff on Twitter @Geoff_Holtzman.

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