An activist holds up a sign outside the State Department during a protest of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 7, 2014 in Washington.
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty

As Keystone vote looms, Obama sounds skeptical

Updated
With Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) facing a re-election runoff in Louisiana in a few weeks, Senate Democrats have apparently come up with a curious plan: they’ll try to pass, at Landrieu’s behest, her opponent’s legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
 
The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/17/14, 9:38 PM ET

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The legislation, championed by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), passed the House on Friday, and Landrieu hopes to prove her efficacy as a lawmaker by pushing the bill through the Senate tomorrow. It’s a dubious plan: Landrieu is championing a Republican bill written by her Senate runoff rival. She’s also infuriating environmentalists and dividing the party in the wake of embarrassing national defeats.
 
Making matters slightly worse, the centrist Democrat may not have the votes.
Embattled Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and other supporters of building the Keystone XL pipeline appear to be one vote short of the 60 they need to win a key vote on the project on Tuesday.
 
Landrieu has 59 votes backing legislation to approve the project, and Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Angus King (I-Maine) appear to be her top targets to get to 60.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said yesterday Keystone backers are “one vote short,” and that remains true this afternoon. Levin said today he intends to vote “no,” and King is “leaning no.” There was some chatter about Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) being open to persuasion, but he announced over the weekend that he’s a “no,” too.
 
For the sake of argument, let’s say Landrieu finds her 60th vote and passes her opponent’s bill. Is there any chance President Obama would sign it into law?
 
We received a pretty big hint late last week.
 
Rebecca Leber noted that there’s been no official announcement from the White House about the fate of the struggling bill, but the unofficial signals seem fairly clear.
The president and his advisers say that congressional action on Keystone would circumvent the normal federal review process, which involves an assessment from the State Department. These latest comments, in response to reporters’ questions in Myanmar on Friday, more directly challenged the policy rational proponents make – that the pipeline would be a major source of jobs. 
 
“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on US gas prices,” he said, according to ABC News. “If my Republican friends really want to focus on what’s good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy? I’m happy to have that conversation.”
Well then.
 
While Republicans and much of the media have come to see Keystone as some kind of baseline for “seriousness” on energy policy and job creation, let’s not forget that a State Department investigation determined that the Keystone project, once completed, would create jobs for “approximately 50 total employees in the United States.” That’s not a typo – we’re talking about 50 permanent jobs.
 
In fairness, there would be thousands of temporary construction jobs during the pipeline expansion, but once it’s done, we’re still left with a controversial project worth “35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.”
 
Watch this space.
 

Environment, Environmental Policy, Keystone, Louisiana, Mary Landrieu and Senate Democrats

As Keystone vote looms, Obama sounds skeptical

Updated