It was not immediately clear Tuesday night whether Republicans would consent to proceeding with such a vote during the lame-duck session that begins on Wednesday -- especially given the high stakes surrounding Landrieu's reelection race. Such a move would also draw howls from the environmental movement who had hoped that President Obama would resolve a years-long dispute over a long-awaited energy project in their favor. Several Senate Democratic aides confirmed on Tuesday evening that talks are underway to allow for a vote authorizing construction of the pipeline in the coming days.
As of yesterday, there were two unresolved U.S. Senate races: Alaska and Louisiana. As of this morning, there appears to be only one.
Nov. 13, 201405:14
And that leaves Louisiana, where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) will take on Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in a Dec. 6 runoff. Landrieu is clearly an underdog in the race, but the Washington Post reports that her Democratic colleagues have an idea to give her a boost: holding a vote to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline during the lame-duck session.
Bloomberg News is reporting the same thing.
I can appreciate why Senate Dems would be eager to give their friend and colleague a hand, but as seat-saving strategies go, this one is highly dubious.
The basic idea is pretty straightforward: if the outgoing Senate Democratic majority is able to deliver on one of Landrieu's energy priorities, it would position her as a successful senator who knows how to get things done. The pipeline project is popular in Louisiana, so it makes sense to show the senator securing a "big win" at an opportune time.
All of this, of course, is consistent with the message the Landrieu has pushed all year: as the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she's in a unique position to deliver for Louisiana.
But as voters probably realize, Republicans are taking the Senate majority. Whether Landrieu wins or loses, her leadership of the committee is now over, at least for the next two years,
With this in mind, there's simply no reason to assume that approving the Keystone pipeline would make much of a difference. Indeed, Cassidy supports the project, too, so Louisiana voters have a choice between two candidates who would vote on this issue in the Senate the exact same way.
At the same time, Senate Democrats would enrage environmentalists, run the risk of a veto from President Obama, and divide the party in the wake of embarrassing national defeats.
If Dems want to give Landrieu a boost, they can invest in her re-election campaign. A Keystone vote probably won't make a difference.