They’ll be back: Republicans vow to try again on Keystone

WASHINGTON — Even if Senate supporters of Keystone XL fail to pass legislation authorizing the pipeline on Tuesday, Republicans say they will be back again in 2015.

“We will come back again next year and keep coming back until we get a solution,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

GOP leaders have signaled that Keystone XL is one of their top priorities when they take control of the Senate in January. With the November election adding to their numbers in both chambers of Congress, Republicans expect they will then easily clear the 60-vote threshold to cut off filibusters and pass legislation in the Senate.

And while they don’t clearly have enough supporters in the House and Senate to overturn a veto, that may not matter.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., the architect of the Keystone XL legislation and the GOP strategy on the issue, has hinted that the measure could be tethered to a spending bill or a proposal to accelerate natural gas exports. President Barack Obama could also use Keystone XL approval as a bargaining chip to secure another environmental or energy policy priority.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky stressed that “Republicans are committed to getting Keystone approved.” If the Senate rejects the legislation Tuesday or Obama vetoes the measure, “then a new majority is committed to acting next year.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has been singlehandedly working to line up “aye” votes for the Keystone legislation among her Democratic colleagues but as of midday Tuesday still appeared to be one vote shy, at least based on public disclosures by senators and their spokesmen.

Read more: Senate vote on Keystone XL set to be close

Although the White House has stopped short of an outright veto threat, President Barack Obama last week said Congress shouldn’t short-circuit an ongoing State Department review of the proposed pipeline. That administrative review, in turn, is on hold pending a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling on a case challenging the route through that state.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest reaffirmed Tuesday that the president views the State Department as “the proper venue for reaching this determination” of whether Keystone XL is in the national interest.

Cornyn suggested that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada could stave off immediate presidential action on the issue until after Landrieu and her Republican rival for the Senate, Bill Cassidy, face Louisiana voters in a Dec. 6 runoff. Landrieu’s supporters hope passage of the Keystone XL bill would buoy her chances of retaining her Senate seat.

“Sen. Reid can decide not to send it to the White House until after the Dec. 6 runoff,” Cornyn said. “And I’d be surprised if he did send it so the president could veto it before then. I have no doubt the president will veto it eventually.”