Senate Votes YES On Keystone, Glad It's Over

After taking the entire month of January to debate the Keystone pipeline, the Senate voted in favor of it, 62-36.

Nine Democrats voted Yes along with every Republican – four votes short of being able to override President Obama’s veto.

Democrats who voted yes: Michael Bennet (CO), Jon Tester (MT), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tom Carper (DE), Bob Casey (PA), Joe Manchin (WVA), Mark Warner (VA).

The bill now goes back to the House, but since a handful of amendments passed with the Senate Bill, a conference committee may have to hammer out the final bill. 

Pipeline opponents have sent over 1,100 "veto and reject" pens to President Obama:

Keystone Pen

Amendments Show Where Senators Stand

All month long, the Senate debated more than 40 proposed amendments and only about six were approved. None will become law if the legislation is vetoed, so the purpose was to get people on record for their stance on a variety of issues.

You probably heard about the first amendment to pass – Democrats wanted Republicans on record about their views on climate change – the biggest reason the pipeline shouldn’t be built.

Climate champion Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) amendment passed 98-1: "Climate change is real and not a hoax." Roger Wicker (R-MS) cast the "no" vote.

That was the easy vote. Five Republicans voted for Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) amendment: "Climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate change." Republicans who voted Yes: Lindsey Graham (SC), Lamar Alexander (TN), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME) and Kelly Ayotte (NH).

Amendments Approved:

  • Energy efficiency upgrades for schools (Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Warner (D-VA). It asks the Department of Energy to promote existing programs that schools may not be aware of. 
  • Slimmed-down version of Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill that’s been languishing since 2011 – promotes energy efficiency in commercial buildings and federally managed properties. (Rob Portman (R-OH).   
  • The tar sands industry should no longer be exempt from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which pays for spill cleanup (Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). This "sense of the Senate" amendment has no teeth. Two amendments that would actually make it happen were voted down.
  • Protect property owners from having their land seized for the pipeline through eminent domain (John Cornyn (R-TX). Looks good, but the amendment only says the US must "ensure private property is protected as guaranteed by the United States Constitution."

    Nebraska landowners are battling in court because their property isn’t protected. An amendment was rejected that would have shielded them – saying foreign corporations can’t seize private property for financial gain (Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Amendments Voted Down (needed 60 votes to pass):

  • Ban exports of oil shipped through the pipeline (Ed Markey (D-MA).  
  • Require US steel be used to construct the pipeline (Al Franken (D-MN).
  • Companies that benefit from tar sands have to disclose campaign contributions (Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI)
  • Amend the tax code so that products from tar sands oil are subject to the Federal excise tax on petroleum (Ron Wyden (D-OR). 
  • The Keystone bill doesn’t go into effect until the tax code is amended as above (Ed Markey (D-MA).
  • Remove wilderness protection from millions of acres of public land and the Alaska Wildlife Refuge to open it to iol drilling (Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Expedite natural gas exports (Ted Cruz, R-TX)
  • 15% rebate on solar PV systems (Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • A nonbinding measure to renew the Wind production tax credit for 5 years (Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

"Just like I’d love to give certainty to TransCanada so that they know exactly what they need to do, there’s another industry that needs certainty too and that’s the wind energy industry. They’ve been whipsawed back and forth on whether they’re going to get the credits or not get the credits."

Three Republicans voted in favor of it: Susan Collins (ME), Chuck Grassley (IA) and Mark Kirk (IL). One Democrate voted against it – Joe Manchin (WVA). 

We’re not sure if these amendments were voted on:

  • Open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other wilderness areas to oil drilling (Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Speed approval of natural gas LNG facilities for export (Ted Cruz (R-TX).
  • While Republicans tout the "Keystone Jobs Bill" as creating 42,000 jobs for the middle class while helping the US to become energy independent, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called it like it is: a "giant straw that goes from Canada across the US to Port Arthur, Texas, where the oil is sucked out and exported."

    Not a drop of the oil would stay in the US and Keystone would create about 2000 jobs during the 1-2 year construction period. The 42,000 jobs number reflects the possible "indirect" jobs. Those are the facts.

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