Keystone XL supporters scramble for one more vote

Keystone XL, a controversial oil pipeline, needs one more vote in the Senate to send a bill to President Obama approving the proposed project. Keystone XL has been the subject of a fierce struggle between environmentalists and energy advocates ever since Calgary-based TransCanada proposed it in 2008.

Sue Ogrocki/AP/File
Miles of pipe ready to become part of the Keystone Pipeline are stacked in a field near Cushing, Okla.

Supporters of a Senate bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast are still scrambling to find one more Senator to support it before Tuesday's vote.

The proposed crude-oil- pipeline, which would run 1,179 miles (1,900 kilometers) from the Canadian tar sands to Gulf coast refineries, has been the subject of a fierce struggle between environmentalists and energy advocates ever since Calgary-based TransCanada proposed it in 2008.

The pipeline has also been one of the two major battle lines, along with immigration, between President Barack Obama and Republicans since their big election victory earlier this month.

The issue has taken center stage in the waning days of this Congress in the hopes it will boost the prospects of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu who faces a tough runoff election on Dec. 6.

The bill has fallen victim to Senate gridlock in the recent past, but Landrieu, with her political career at stake, launched an effort last week to find enough Democratic converts for passage. She trails Rep. Bill Cassidy in polls but is campaigning as a skilled and seasoned lawmaker with the ability to pass bipartisan legislation vital to her oil-rich state.

The House passed legislation last week to allow construction to proceed, with Cassidy claiming much of the credit.

The vote offers a preview of what is ahead for Obama on energy and environmental issues when the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress next year. Even if the measure fails Tuesday, Republicans in both chambers vowed to try to approveKeystone again.

For six years, the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline has languished amid debates over global warming and the country's energy security. The latest delay came after a lawsuit was filed in Nebraska over its route.

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The White House has issued veto threats of similar bills, and both administration officials and Obama have indicated a veto is likely. Neither the House nor the Senate has the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a presidential visit.

Without a 60th vote, Obama can continue to punt on the subject. As the Monitor's Linda Feldmann reported Monday:

For now, Obama can avoid a public decision by saying he’s waiting for the State Department to issue its final recommendation and for the Nebraska Supreme Court to rule on a case involving the pipeline’s route. That ruling is expected in January.

With 59 Senators publicly voicing support for the bill, the hunt was on for the 60th vote before a critical vote Tuesday to advance the measure.

All 45 Republicans support it, and 11 Democrats have signed onto the bill, along with three others who have publicly said they will vote "yes."

That leaves just one.

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