A Republican attempt to push forward an amendment that would authorize construction of the entire Keystone XL Pipeline fell short in the Senate today.
The amendment, added on to a transportation bill, needed 60 votes to pass. It received 56 in support, 42 in opposition, with two Republicans abstaining from voting. The rest of the Republican Senators and 11 Democratic Senators supported the bill.
The vote comes a little over a week after TransCanada (NYSE:TRP) announced it would build a portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline anyway. The Keystone XL Pipeline became a controversial issue when President Barack Obama, citing environmental concerns and a deadline imposed on him by Congress, rejected plans for the pipeline in Jan. 2012. Obama contacted Democratic Senators urging them to oppose the amendment, and it looks like his efforts bore fruit.
The U.S. State Department — part of the executive branch run by the president — has claimed jurisdiction over the project, because the pipeline would cross an international border. Congress was attempting to circumvent that by invoking its right to monitor commerce in the Constitution.
What does this mean going forward? It gives more fodder to GOP presidential candidates to say the president is out of touch with Americans feeling the squeeze at the gas pump. It also has become a point of contention between two parts of the Democratic base — labor unions, who support the pipeline’s construction for the jobs it would bring, and environmentalists, who worry about the environmental impact of the project. If Obama, TransCanada, and environmentalists can come to an agreement to find a new, less environmentally harmful path for the pipeline, those complaints could become moot. Obama claims to be working towards that, but we will have to wait and see if he succeeds.
— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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