Keystone pipeline strikes out in Senate

Republicans made one last final but futile attempt Tuesday to attach language approving the Keystone XL pipeline to a highway-spending bill in the Senate.

The measure offered by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) required 60 votes to pass and was defeated by 41 nays to 57 yeas. The amendment also contained some popular tax measures, including an extension of the college tuition credit that expired Dec. 31.

Roberts was only allowed a few minutes before the vote to convince his fellow lawmakers to support his measure, and said construction of the TransCanada pipeline from the northern border to Texas would ease the rising cost of gas in decades to come.

“And most of all, it promotes economic growth, without adding to the deficit,” Roberts said of his amendment.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) opposed the Roberts language, which was nearly identical to an amendment last week authored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-S.D.) that was defeated on a vote of 42 nays and 56 yeas.

“We absolutely need to stop our addiction to foreign oil and create jobs, but that’s not what it does,” Stabenow said.

When he introduced his amendment last week, Roberts also said it would benefit middle-income families who don’t qualify for PELL grants or receive other help in defraying the cost of a college education for their children.

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.”

Republicans along with a dozen Democrats tried to overturn the White House’s decision to block construction of the pipeline but were defeated after a last-minute lobbying effort by President Barack Obama.

Hoeven said in a written statement after last week’s vote that he blamed Obama and his administration for defeating his measure.

“It is disappointing that President Obama personally called Senators to urge them to oppose this important amendment, which would enable the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward with all necessary environmental safeguards,” Hoeven said in the statement.

Hoeven said he would continue to work with House Republicans to include the language to the highway bill when it moves to that chamber for consideration.

With a majority of Senators already voting in favor of the language to approve the pipeline, it would have strong support when the bill goes to a conference committee to work through the final differences, Hoeven said.

“After three years of study, it’s time to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline,” Hoeven said.

TransCanada wants to spend $7 billion to build the 1,700- mile pipeline, which is expected to transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil a day to Texas.