Landrieu pushes for Keystone pipeline vote

Story highlights

  • Sen. Mary Landrieu wants a vote this week to approve the Keystone XL pipeline
  • If she succeeds, it could help her chances of winning re-election in a Dec. 6 runoff
  • Landrieu's push highlights her influence on energy issues ahead of the election
Sen. Mary Landrieu is pushing leaders in both parties to vote this week to approve the Keystone XL pipeline -- a move that could boost the embattled Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairwoman's chances of winning another term.
"This has been a project that has lingered far too long. It is clearly supported by 60 or more members of this body," Landrieu said on the Senate floor Wednesday, minutes after lawmakers kicked off their post-midterm election lame duck session.
The Louisiana Democrat is fighting for her political life ahead of a Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican challenger Bill Cassidy.
The Keystone XL pipeline represents a chance for Landrieu to flex her muscles on issues important to her energy-rich state one last time.
Republicans have countered her moves by promising Cassidy a seat on the energy panel.
"I'm excited to announce that when elected, Dr. Cassidy will be a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee," incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement out from Cassidy's campaign. "I'm confident Cassidy will use this position to succeed where Sen. Landrieu failed."
Landrieu's push comes as House GOP leaders plan to begin debate Thursday to approve the pipeline with a vote slated for Friday. And Cassidy will be sponsoring the bill, giving him a chance to mute any advantages Landrieu might gain on the issue.
That didn't seem to bother Landrieu, who pointed to the House's plans on the Senate floor.
"Let me just say, Hallelujah," she said.
"I've never seen labor and business come together in my life like I have on this issue," Landrieu said. "I've never seen so many senators cosponsor a bill and yet, because of something I can't quite put my finger on, we haven't yet passed it -- and I think we can do that now, today."
Voters swept Republicans into the Senate majority in this month's midterm election, and McConnell has signaled the GOP-led chamber is likely to vote on a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline early next year.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he'd rather let the State Department conclude an independent review before deciding whether to move forward with the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Texas -- though he hasn't said whether he would veto legislation from Congress if lawmakers decide to force his hand on the issue.
It's not clear whether Republicans will support Landrieu's bid for a vote while Democrats still control the chamber. But she was lobbying for them to do so on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Landrieu said all of the chamber's GOP members are co-sponsors of her bill to approve the pipeline, and that its path forward "will never, ever be clearer than it is today."
"Think very carefully before any one of you object, because you are all co-sponsors of the bill," she said. "So just think hard on it before you do it."
Republicans blasted Landrieu for what they called a "Hail Mary," saying that if she had pull with Senate Democratic leadership, she should have used it before the runoff was just weeks away.
"After years of ineffectiveness, this latest Hail Mary is yet another reminder that Mary Landrieu has failed Louisianans for years," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen. "Voters deserve a Senator that doesn't just show up in the 11th hour for political benefits, but will fight every day to create good jobs and economic opportunity for Louisiana."