The House voted Friday to authorize the long-stalled Keystone pipeline, an action that Republicans arranged only after Senate Democrats flip-flopped and decided to hold their own Keystone vote in an effort to save the Senate seat of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).
When the Senate signaled it would move on Keystone, House Republicans introduced an identical bill that the House passed easily on Friday in a 252-161 vote — 31 Democrats voted with Republicans, and seven of them are from Texas, a state the pipeline is expected to help economically.
That's an improvement among Democrats from 2013, when 19 Democrats voted to approve the pipeline.
The House vote, in addition to the sudden movement in the Senate, shows once again that support for the project exists in both parties, even though it has been blocked for political reasons in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had prohibited a clean vote on the pipeline over fears that it would hurt Democrats, and advance a project that the Obama administration opposes.
But when faced with the possibility that Landrieu will lose her seat in a December runoff election, Democrats quickly changed their minds and agreed to vote on Keystone. Landrieu has supported the project for years, and Democrats are hoping that approving the pipeline will give Landrieu something to take back to voters before her runoff election, which she is expected to lose.
The Senate is reportedly close to the 60 votes needed to pass the bill next week. House and Senate approval would set up something of a sticky problem for the Obama administration, which will have to decide whether to sign it. The Keystone pipeline would allow oil from Canada to be shipped to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Some House aides have speculated that Obama will not sign it, since doing so would make it look like Congress was dictating terms to the administration, and would also upset environmentalists. Instead, Obama could decide not to sign the bill, but then issue all final approvals for the Keystone project.
The full list of Democrats voting for the Keystone pipeline follows:
John Barrow (Ga), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Robert Brady (Pa.), James Clyburn (S.C.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Mike Doyle (Pa.), Al Green (Texas), Gene Green (Texas), Ruben Hinojosa (Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Dave Loebsack (Iowa), Sean Maloney (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Carolyn McCarthy (N.Y.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Ricard Nolan (Minn.), Donald Norcross (N.J.), Bill Owens (N.Y.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Nich Rahall (W.Va.), Cedric Richmond (La.), David Scott (Ga.), Terri Sewell (Ala.), Albio Sires (N.J.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Marc Veasey (Texas), Filemon Vela (Texas) and Tim Walz (Minn.).
In Thursday debate, House Republicans noted the cynical reason why the bill suddenly had a chance in the Democratic Senate.
"Sadly, while the House has continued to take definitive bipartisan action to advance this critical goal, it appears the Senate has waited only until it is politically advantageous to do so, even as it enjoys majority support in that Chamber," said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
"The tens of thousands of jobs of all these Americans, who you turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to, are now being answered by the Senate because of one job, one senator who has the possibility of losing her seat because of the Keystone pipeline not being able to go through the Senate," Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) added.
But Republicans were mostly happy to take advantage of the sudden movement in the Senate, and welcomed the change of heart among Democrats that will allow both chambers to vote to authorize the project. While some Democrats have said legislation should not be used to speed up the process of approving Keystone, Republicans said the Obama administration's process has only been used to delay the pipeline.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is expected to win Landrieu seat in the runnoff, said the government has had several years to approve it or reject it.
"It has been over six years since backers of the Keystone XL pipeline first submitted an application to the U.S. State Department, on September 19, 2008, to build this energy infrastructure project and bring jobs and greater energy security to America," he said.
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) added that the project has been studied for years, and that the Obama administration has simply opposed its approval.
"The Keystone XL pipeline is the most extensively studied and vetted pipeline project in the history of this country," he said.