Senate Republicans have the 60 votes that they need to initially pass the Keystone XL pipeline, but they don’t have the votes needed to overcome an Obama veto, and they lack a clear Plan B to get the pipeline authorized.
Politico laid out the three options that Senate Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) are mulling,
The first is to win enough support for the bill to override a presidential veto. That requires a hefty 67 votes in the Senate, and so far, the bill has an estimated 63 supporters. Corralling four other “yes” votes will prove to be a difficult, and perhaps impossible, task.
The second option is focused on the open amendment process, in which senators will spend days and perhaps weeks offering amendments to the bill with few restrictions. Hoeven and Manchin hope they can sweeten the pot enough to either win 67 votes or persuade President Barack Obama not to veto the bill by adding popular amendments.
The third option is a longer-term strategy. If their current attempt to pressure Obama to sign the Keystone bill goes down in flames, Hoeven hopes to force the president’s hand by attaching the measure to must-pass legislation. While Obama has been increasingly critical of the pipeline in recent months, Keystone backers are betting that the president will be willing to make a deal, particularly if they tie Keystone to appropriations legislation.
The odds of Republicans getting the last four votes that they would need to override a presidential veto are zero. There aren’t four more Democrats in the Senate who would vote for the project. It doesn’t matter what kind of sweeteners are added to the deal. It would take something like Republicans agreeing to the Bernie Sanders proposed $1 trillion infrastructure project to be included to for Democrats to support the bill.
Republicans would have to offer something so big to Democrats that they would risk losing support from their own party for the bill. That is roughly how far they would have to go in order to attract four more Democratic votes. The power to authorize Keystone XL still firmly rests with the president and the Senate Democrats who are standing with him.
The price for cutting a deal with President Obama on Keystone XL would likely be high and extremely distasteful for Republicans. The idea that Republicans can force Obama to authorize the pipeline through the appropriations process has been proven false on numerous occasions. The last government shutdown was based on the same flawed Republican logic that the president could be forced to do something via the appropriations process.
Republicans have already tipped their hand. They desperately want Keystone XL authorized, and they don’t want to shut down the government. The president would have no incentive to sign a bill with Keystone XL attached to it because he already knows that Republicans will back down to avoid a government shutdown.
Senate Republicans are about to waste weeks of time trying to pass the pipeline when everyone understands that it is DOA. Before a single vote was cast President Obama won again, and the big Republican plan to force Obama to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline has fallen apart.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association