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Congress To Vote On Keystone XL Pipeline

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The stars have aligned for the vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans have been demanding the vote for months and used the issue to jam the White House on not supporting job creation in the 2014 election cycle. And now Democrats are also interested in having the vote in hopes that allowing Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to vote for the proposal will help her win her runoff election. Though her opponent, Representative Bill Cassidy, will also get a chance to vote for the pipeline in the House.

The problem for the White House is that if enough Democrats vote for the pipeline President Obama is going to have a lot more difficulty opposing it. Not only will pipeline supporters be able to rehash the old talking points about jobs they will be able to celebrate the pipeline as a bipartisan proposal – a term that makes the DC press go wild.

The fact that building the pipeline would be “game over” for preventing climate change seems not to be a factor in Congress.

For the first time in the six-year fight over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, both houses of Congress will hold a vote on the proposed project, giving each side in a Louisiana Senate election a chance to boost its candidate.The two lawmakers locked in the runoff contest, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), seized control of the congressional agenda Wednesday, extracting assurances from House and Senate leaders that votes will be held to bypass President Obama’s authority and authorize construction of the pipeline.

A large showing of Democratic support for the pipeline could complicate the administration’s decision-making process, given the party’s dismal showing at the polls last week. Environmentalist allies of the president are solidly against the project and have been doggedly lobbying the administration against approving it. But Republicans successfully used the president’s environmental and climate agenda as key lines of attack against Democrats in several contested midterm races. Those results strengthen the arguments of those who believe that it would be a political mistake for the administration to deny permits for the unbuilt sections of the pipeline, and congressional approval of the project could put the administration on the defensive if it were inclined to halt the project.

But the elections are over aren’t they? If it was a political mistake for the White House to prevent the building the pipeline the cost has already been paid with the loss of Senate and House seats. Caving in now to support a dangerous project is not going to bring back control of the Senate, but it will show the world that the US really isn’t really serious about climate change.

While agreements with China about the future are encouraging the Keystone XL issue is here now. It will be hard to take commitments to fight climate change in the future seriously if at present the White House and Democrats in Congress are supporting a climate killing pipeline.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.