Colleagues in approving Keystone years ago
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will become the majority leader in January, called on Democrats to vote for the bill, which is supported by all 45 Senate Republicans. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., was still searching for the last vote needed to advance the measure, but said on the floor Tuesday she "knew in her heart" she had the 60 votes.
The House passed a bill last week spearheaded by her rival, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the ninth time that chamber has tried to jumpstart the pipeline's construction. Landrieu faces an uphill fight to hold on to her Senate seat in a Dec. 6 runoff against Cassidy.
"I wish the Senate would have followed the lead of Congressman Cassidy and his House colleagues in approving Keystone years ago. It's just common sense," McConnell said. "And if not, a new majority will be taking this matter up and sending it to the president. "
The issue has taken center stage in the waning days of this Congress in the hopes it will boost the prospects of Louisiana's Senate candidates. Supporters of the bill seemed to have 59 votes to advance it, but were still looking for a 60th. Maine independent Angus King left the possibility open on Monday when he said he was a "probable no."
The vote puts pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, which he has resisted in the past. Environmentalists have pressed Obama to reject the pipeline as proof of his commitment to curb global warming, even though a State Department environmental review said it would not worsen the problem. The oil industry, labor unions and Republicans have called on Obama to approve it says it would create jobs and reduce imports from the Middle East.
"Today we will have that debate again and I hope at the end of the day we will have 60 votes we need," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the lead sponsor of the bill as he opened debate on the bill Tuesday. "The time has come to act and that is what this legislation is all about."