"I'm open to anything that will move energy efficiency," Reid, a
long-time foe of the project, told reporters.
He was referring to a bill that would save energy through tougher
building codes sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire
Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, that the Senate is
expected to consider as early as next week.
Details were unclear, but in exchange for Republicans supporting the
efficiency bill, Reid could permit a vote on a measure that would
allow Congress to approve the bill of the pipeline. The vote could
allow Democratic senators facing tough elections in November to be
seen as supporting the project.
But even if the bill passes the Senate and a similar bill passes in
the House of Representatives, it is likely that President Barack
Obama would veto it.
The Obama administration has been considering the pipeline for more
than five years. Earlier this month, the State Department said it
would again delay a decision on the pipeline until the Nebraska
Supreme Court settles a dispute over the path of the pipeline,
effectively delaying the decision until after the November 4
"We are discussing what to do," a senior Democratic aide said,
making no prediction on when a decision would be made on whether to
allow a vote on TransCanada Corp's pipeline. The project would bring
more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy oil from Canada's Alberta
province to refineries in Texas.
"I'm trying to work something out," Reid told reporters. "But they
(Senate Keystone backers) keep moving the ball."
Reid said Republicans initially wanted a non-binding sense of the
Senate vote on Keystone. But now they are pushing to be allowed to
offer an amendment or other measure that allows Congress to force
approval the project.
"We ought to have a vote that matters," said Senator John Thune,
Republican of South Dakota.
[to top of second column]
Democratic Senators up for reelection in November, such as Mary
Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, support the
A Democratic political strategist, speaking on the condition he not
be identified by name, said there are two reasons why Reid is now
open to a Keystone vote.
"First, he wants to get Shaheen-Portman to the floor. Democrats
really want to legislate and move this bill, and a Keystone vote
could help clear the way," the strategist said.
"The other reason is to give Democrats like Landrieu a chance to be
on the record in support of Keystone," he said.
The White House has threatened to veto previous attempts by Congress
to force approval of the project.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Timothy Gardner and Thomas Ferraro;
editing by Ros Krasny, Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)
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