WASHINGTON – The Senate moved closer to a showdown over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline Tuesday, as a related energy bill cleared an early procedural hurdle.
Senators voted 79-20 to take up an energy efficiency bill that Keystone supporters want to amend with language authorizing immediate construction of the proposed pipeline from Canada to the United States. Despite the vote, the two parties were still arguing over whether to allow amendments to the measure, including one by Keystone supporters that would end years of delay by the Obama administration on whether to approve the pipeline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., denied a Republican request for an amendment on the pipeline, but said he was open to a stand-alone vote on a pipeline bill later.
Reid accused Republicans of trying to block the energy bill, which has bipartisan support. Republicans said Reid was backing away from a promise to allow a vote on Keystone.
“Senate Republicans keep changing their requests,” Reid said, noting that some Republicans first asked for a “sense of the Senate” resolution on Keystone and then called for a binding vote.
“It seems like this is nothing but a game of diversion and obstruction to many Senate Republicans,” Reid said. “But it’s not a game. Every time a group of Republicans feigns interest in bipartisanship, only to scramble away at the last moment, it is part of a calculated political scheme.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Reid’s claim “laughable” and said all that Senate Republicans seek is a full and open debate on energy policy.
“The American people have waited seven long years for a serious energy debate in the Democrat-run Senate,” McConnell said, noting that the Senate has not approved a major energy bill since 2007.
In addition to Keystone, Republican senators have prepared a host of amendments to the energy bill, including one that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Lawmakers from both parties also support a measure to speed approval of terminals to export liquefied natural gas.