Se­nate vote keeps pipe­line elec­tion is­sue

Democrats af­firm Obama’s re­jec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Demo­cratic sen­a­tors voted Thurs­day to rat­ify Pres­i­dent Obama’s decision to re­ject the Key­stone XL pipe­line, leav­ing the project in limbo but en­sur­ing it re­mains a po­lit­i­cal is­sue through this year’s elec­tions.

Mr. Obama per­son­ally lob­bied Democrats to sup­port his decision, and was re­warded when 42 of them sided with him — enough to sus­tain a fil­i­buster against a Gop-led ef­fort to undo the pres­i­dent’s re­jec­tion.

“The Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate just turned its back on job cre­ation and en­ergy in­de­pend-

ence,” said Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can. “Pres­i­dent Obama’s per­sonal pleas to wa­ver­ing sen­a­tors may have tipped the bal­ance against this leg­is­la­tion. When it comes to de­lays over Key­stone, any­one look­ing for a cul­prit should now look no fur­ther than the Oval Of­fice.”

Also Thurs­day, the Se­nate re­jected an ef­fort by Sen. Tom Coburn, Ok­la­homa Re­pub­li­can, to force the ad­min­is­tra­tion to cut $10 bil­lion in du­plica­tive pro­grams out of the fed­eral bud­get, and turned back an­other ef­fort to ex­pand off­shore oil- and gas-drilling per­mits.

Sen­a­tors also ap­proved new rules for Gulf Coast oil spill re­cov­ery money so that part of it can be sent to states to spend how they see fit.

The flurry of ac­tion came af­ter Mr. Mccon­nell and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, broke a week­long dead­lock that had stopped them from mov­ing for­ward on a mas­sive new trans­porta­tion bill.

Sen­a­tors from both par­ties in­sisted on be­ing able to vote on amend­ments, and Mr. Reid and Mr. Mccon­nell set­tled on a list of 30. Seven of them had votes Thurs­day, and the rest will come next week.

But the oil pipe­line was the big­gest show­down.

Key­stone XL would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands into the U.S. for re­fin­ing, fol­low­ing a route that could go through en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive ar­eas of Ne­braska. An ap­pli­ca­tion had been pend­ing for years, and most U.S. agen­cies had signed off on it, but Mr. Obama’s State Depart­ment last year said it was putting off final ap­proval un­til af­ter the 2012 elec­tion.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans balked and forced through a bill set­ting a final dead­line for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­cide on the project. Mr. Obama, sid­ing with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and against his la­bor union al­lies, re­jected the pipe­line in Jan­uary.

The White House said the time­line Congress set didn’t give the State Depart­ment enough time to weigh all of the is­sues in­volved, so he was left with no choice but to re­ject it.

Pipe­line op­er­a­tor Tran­scanada said in Fe­bru­ary it would go ahead with about 500 miles of the south­ern part of the pipe­line, from Ok­la­homa to the Texas Gulf Coast, to al­le­vi­ate a stor­age bot­tle­neck in Ok­la­homa. It also has said it will sub­mit an al­ter­nate route for the north­ern seg­ment, so as to avoid the part of Ne­braska at is­sue.

A ma­jor­ity of sen­a­tors voted 56-42 Thurs­day to over­turn his decision, but the vote fell four shy of the 60 needed to ap­prove the amend­ment un­der the Se­nate’s rules for de­bate.

White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney would not tell re­porters which sen­a­tors Mr. Obama lob­bied, and said Repub­li­cans were try­ing “to play pol­i­tics” with the pipe­line.

He said it was “false ad­ver­tis­ing” to say that ap­prov­ing the pipe­line would re­duce gas prices now.

Eleven Democrats bucked the pres­i­dent to side with all 45 Repub­li­cans who voted Thurs­day.

Min­utes ear­lier, the cham­ber re­jected an­other pro­posal that would have pushed the pipe­line but in­sisted it be built with U.S. la­bor and ma­te­ri­als, and would have re­quired that all of the oil shipped through it be sold only in the U.S.

“This oil is not go­ing to be go­ing to the United States. It’s go­ing to be go­ing to the ex­port mar­ket,” said Sen. Ron Wy­den, the Ore­gon Demo­crat who tried to force the U.s.-only pro­vi­sions.

With­out Key­stone, many sen­a­tors said, Canada likely will build a pipe­line west rather than south, car­ry­ing the oil to the Pa­cific Ocean where it is likely to be bought by China.

The pipe­line is­sue is bound to re­turn, par­tic­u­larly since House Repub­li­cans are eye­ing ways to push their own Key­stone bill through their cham­ber. Also, Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have blasted Mr. Obama for re­ject­ing the pipe­line and vowed to make it a ma­jor is­sue in the fall cam­paign.

In other ac­tion, the Se­nate reversed course from last year and re­jected Mr. Coburn’s amend­ment, which would have tried to find $10 bil­lion in sav­ings from agency du­pli­ca­tion. His pro­posal would have re­quired the ad­min­is­tra­tion to pick $10 bil­lion in cuts from a list of projects where the gov­ern­ment’s au­di­tor says two or more agen­cies over­lap.

The amend­ment also gained a ma­jor­ity 52-46 vote, but that too fell short of the 60 votes needed.

It marks a slide from last year, when a sim­i­lar amend­ment re­quir­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to use the re­ports to cut $5 bil­lion passed the Se­nate. It later died when the bill to which it was at­tached was pulled from the floor with­out final ap­proval.

Last week, the au­di­tors at the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice re­leased their sec­ond du­pli­ca­tion re­port find­ing that the gov­ern­ment could save tens of bil­lions of dol­lars a year if it stream­lined pro­grams.

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