According to Reuters, supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline in the US Senate scrambled on Monday (November 17) to gather one last vote to pass a bill that authorizes the project that would help send Canadian oil to the US Gulf, a task made harder after President Barack Obama made his toughest comments yet on the topic.
All eyes were on Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who is retiring. He had originally told backers he would vote "no," but unions and the oil industry were pressuring him, an aide to a top Republican backer of the pipeline said. Rockefeller's office did not immediately answer questions about his position.
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who is co-sponsoring the bill and faces a runoff for another six-year term next month, worked hard to gather the 60th vote needed to pass a bill that the House of Representatives approved on Friday (November 14).
The Senate is expected to vote as early as 1815 EST on Tuesday (November 18) on TransCanada Corp's project that would transport more than 800,000 barrels per day of oil.
Republicans, including Senator John Hoeven, from North Dakota, also pressured Democrats. All 45 Republicans support the pipeline, so they need 15 Democrats. Several Democrats thought to be persuadable said last week they will vote "no."
COMMENT: Obama criticized the project during a trip to Asia late last week, saying it would not lower fuel prices for drivers, but would allow Canada to "pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else."
His adviser John Podesta reiterated Obama's message in a call with reporters on Monday: "I would just repeat what he said, which is we ought to take the time to let the process play out and let the analysis come in."
Republicans and energy analysts said those comments likely meant Obama was leaning toward vetoing any Senate Keystone bill that passes, either this year or early next year.
"The President...is basically threatening a veto this time," said Ryan Bernstein, an aide to Hoeven, who is sponsoring the bill with Landrieu. "Obviously, this makes it harder to gather votes."
Many environmentalists oppose Keystone, saying it would spike emissions linked to climate change and that the oil could be sold abroad. Construction workers and other supporters say it would create thousands of jobs.
Hoeven plans to reintroduce the bill in January or February if it does not pass on Tuesday. Supporters could introduce a standalone bill or attach Keystone language to another bill that would be difficult for Obama to veto.
Republicans say they will have 60 votes next year after the party's strong showing in this month's US midterm elections which will give them new senators including Joni Ernst of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado.