Senate in stalemate on Keystone XL project
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate agreed on Tuesday to advance a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, but it could die unless lawmakers end a stalemate on how to proceed with the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline project.
The Senate voted 79-20 to move toward a debate on the energy bill, making it the first big energy legislation to reach the Senate floor since 2007.
Sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the White House-backed bill would save energy through tougher building codes and by making the federal government install new technologies.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has offered to hold a vote on a separate bill to provide congressional approval of the Keystone XL if Republicans allow passage of the energy measure, a version of which has already passed the House of Representatives.
But Republicans want to add amendments, including one that would take the decision on TransCanada’s Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline out of President Barack Obama’s hands and give it to Congress.
Late on Tuesday, Republicans reiterated their demand for amendments, and Reid made it clear he does not intend to permit any.
The stalemate could end up killing the energy bill and preventing a vote on the project, which would skirt North Dakota and could carry Bakken oil to the Gulf coast. Democrats hold the Senate by a 55-45 margin, but 60 votes are needed to end Republican procedural hurdles and clear the way for passage of legislation.