In a speech on the Senate floor, Landrieu, who represents the
oil-producing state of Louisiana where public support for Keystone
runs high, urged Republican leaders to reverse themselves and accept
a deal offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has said that if Republicans allow passage
of a bipartisan energy bill, he would permit a separate vote on
Keystone, a project that polls show most Americans support.
Environmentalists oppose Keystone - which would bring more than
800,000 barrels a day from Canada's oil sands to refineries in Texas
- saying it could lead to spills and emissions linked to climate
change. Backers say it would increase energy independence and create
thousands of jobs.
Republicans have joined Landrieu and 10 other Democrats in seeking a
vote on Keystone. But Republicans now say they also want votes on a
number of amendments to the energy bill, including one to prevent
the Obama administration from imposing new regulations on coal-fired
With Reid refusing to permit amendments on the energy bill,
Republicans are expected to stop the bill with a procedural
roadblock on Monday. That would likely kill the legislation and see
the offer for a Keystone vote withdrawn as well.
It is unclear if the Senate, where Democrats hold a 55-45 majority,
could muster the 60 votes needed to pass a bill to take the
authority to approve Keystone away from President Barack Obama and
give it to Congress. Even if it did, Obama could veto the measure.
But a Senate vote would show bipartisan support for Keystone and
build pressure on Obama to end years of delays and studies and
approve the project.
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Landrieu, who faces a tough re-election battle this November, said:
"The time for studying is over. The time for building is now." She
said the way to do that was to press Obama with a Keystone vote.
"My question to my Republican friends is: 'Do you want to build the
Keystone pipeline or do you want an issue to talk about'" heading
into the November election. "I think they want an issue to talk
about," she said.
Republican leaders say it is the first time in years a major energy
bill has been before the Senate and that they should be able to
Landrieu read aloud pro-Keystone comments by a number of Republicans
who she said now seemed more intent on demanding votes on energy
amendments that have no chance of becoming law.
"You've heard a lot about amendments, amendments, amendments,"
Landrieu said, adding the more important question was: "Are we going
to vote to build the Keystone pipeline?"
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Peter Cooney and Ken Wills)
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