Keystone pipeline revival tucked in Senate vote this week

Senate Republicans this week will challenge for the second time in a matter of days President Barack Obama’s contentious decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline by tying the project to a popular tax break for working families.

The amendment authored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) extends the college tuition deduction that ended Dec. 31, and includes the language to approve the pipeline. It is similar to a measure Republicans failed to pass last week by four votes.

Roberts said his legislation, set for a vote as early as Tuesday, includes relief for small businesses to boost the economy, making it a tough bill for Democrats to oppose.

“This is a benefit for middle-income families, a lot of these folks aren’t low-income so their kids don’t qualify for PELL grants, but they’re not high-income either,” Roberts said during a floor speech last week. “A lot of these folks are paying significant federal, state and local taxes and they get no help in defraying the high cost of their kids’ college education.”

Addressing the Keystone language, Roberts added: “we are all painfully aware of the president’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline application. My amendment gives our Canadian neighbors the green light to send energy our way,” Roberts said.

The Senate failed Thursday to overturn the White House’s decision to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline due in part to a last-minute lobbying effort by Obama.

Obama’s efforts to head off defiance of his order through phone calls to Democratic lawmakers resulted in 56 yeas and 42 nays, short of the 60-vote threshold.

“The Democrat-controlled Senate just turned its back on job creation and energy independence in a single vote by rejecting the bipartisan Hoeven-Lugar amendment,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement after last week’s vote.

“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,” McConnell said.

The Roberts amendment to the highway bill will be voted on Tuesday or Wednesday.