In a last-ditch effort to save her seat in Congress, Democratic Senator of Louisiana, Mary Landrieu has sided with Republicans and big oil to approve a bill authorizing the construction of the highly-contested Keystone pipeline. What is being seen as an act of desperation, Landrieu faced the upper chamber of Congress on Wednesday in the battle for her continued political solvency. Her opponent, Republican Bill Cassidy, mirrored Landrieu by putting forth his own version of the bill in the House chamber. Both senators are participating in a run-off election on December 6th because neither secured the requisite 50 percent on November 4th’s election. The latest polling has the incumbent trailing challenger Cassidy by five points.
“It is time for America to become energy dependent,” Landrieu said on Wednesday. “Politics has to be set aside.” While her interest in approving Keystone reflects her state’s dependence on oil and gas, the timing of her call for a vote caused immediate suspicion in many Republicans. Brooke Hougesen, a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman, said that the voters of Louisiana are entitled to political representation that “doesn’t just show up in the 11th hour.”
After introducing his own version of Landrieu’s bill first introduced in May, Cassidy said he “hopes the Senate and the President do the right thing.” He also accused Senator Harry Reid, the current Senate majority leader, of not caring about providing thousands of jobs for Americans. “He cares about Sen. Landrieu’s job. So finally he is going to take the bill up.” Cassidy voiced his disbelief that Landrieu’s latest move is not another of her political ploys to save her seat. Earlier this year, Cassidy and Landrieu mirrored each other again over flood insurance, both including it in bills they sponsored and making it a major issue in their campaigns.
As of yet, neither President Obama nor White House spokesman have stated whether they will sign or veto any bills that reach his desk. In the past, the President has vowed to veto any Keystone legislation that passed Congress. Environmental groups have spent millions lobbying against the approval of the TransCanada backed pipeline. Environmental experts fear approval of the pipeline’s tar sands construction will contribute to the problem of climate change, increasing pollution and possibly threatening water supplies. Expected to cost eight billion dollars, the pipeline would move millions of gallons of crude oil from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. Court battles are already underway in states like Nebraska where the pipeline will have to cross.
With Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress, approving the pipeline is at the top of their legislative agenda. The approval requires Obama’s authorization as the pipeline crosses international borders with Canada. National Resources Defense Council member Danielle Droitsch reiterated that the pipeline “was a bad idea before the election and it remains a bad idea.” As chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Landrieu is potentially using her position to show she still wields some power in the upper chamber. Responding to Cassidy and other critics, she assured constituents that “whoever’s name is on the bill does not matter.” She rejects statements that she is seeking political fame, saying that she “came to fight for jobs for her state.” Siding with Republicans and big oil, Landrieu does not have an agreement with Obama to sign the Keystone legislation if it passes.
The House may vote on Cassidy’s bill as early as Thursday of this week, and the Senate could possibly debate and cast votes on Landrieu’s bill by next Tuesday. The Rules Committee is also preparing to consider a version of the measures in preparation of its passage. In a bold challenge, Landrieu dared Republicans to block a vote on her bill. She believes it would a “symbol of moving past gridlock” and following through on “promises made.” With the news of the potential legislation passing, TransCanada’s stocks rose almost one and a half percentage points. After 20 years in office, Landrieu says she is still “hopeful” that Keystone XL will get done, even if she has to side with Republicans and big corporations in the oil and gas industry.
By Didi Anofienem
Senate Democrats Photo Image – Flickr License