Keystone Measure Stalls Amid Partisan Squabble on Amendments

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A U.S. Capitol visitor assistant walks on a stairway in this photo taken with a tilt-shift lens in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Legislation to approve TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline stalled in the U.S. Senate as Democrats raised objections about the number of amendments they’ve been allowed to offer.

The Senate, by a 53-39 vote with 60 required, refused to advance the Keystone measure, yet Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled before Monday’s vote that he will press ahead with the legislation.

“It’s about time to bring the Keystone debate to a positive conclusion, and we’ll do that soon,” said McConnell of Kentucky. He said Republican leaders had “heard rumors that some in the Democratic leadership are pressuring rank-and-file Democrats,” including some co-sponsors, to block the measure.

Two weeks earlier, enough Democrats joined the majority Republicans to move the bill forward. A second procedural vote Monday also failed 53-39 with 60 votes required.

“We’ve hit our first little bump in the road on the way back to regular order,” said Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “But the point that we’re at, I hope, is we will be able to get back on track.”

Murkowski said the Senate has voted on two two dozen amendments -- more than were voted on in all of 2014 under Democratic control.

Offering Amendments

Democrats have accused the majority leader of backing off his promise to allow both parties a chance to offer wide-ranging amendments to the bill.

“Senator McConnell promised Democrats an open amendment process and a full-throated debate on the Keystone pipeline, and we are holding him to that promise,” said New York Senator Charles Schumer, the chamber’s third-ranking Democrat.

Schumer accused McConnell of “trying to muzzle the debate.”

Backers of the pipeline say it will provide jobs and promote U.S. energy independence. Opponents say the project will create few permanent jobs, won’t boost domestic energy security and would pose environmental hazards.

However, even Democratic opponents of the measure said they thought it would eventually pass.

Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, said he told McConnell before the vote that Democrats want to “work together on a bipartisan basis.”

‘Good-Faith Effort’

“Let’s do this in a conscientious, good-faith effort to complete this bill, and I think we can achieve it,” Durbin said he told McConnell.

The project would connect to an existing pipeline network, linking oil sands in Alberta, Canada, with U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

Republicans control the Senate 54-46. Because six Democrats have signed on as sponsors of the Keystone bill, the Senate most likely will have enough votes to pass the bill though not the two-thirds vote required to override a veto from President Barack Obama.