Byron York reports on the status of the Keystone XL debate. Democratic lawmakers are facing more pressure to support the pipeline with the election looming, and some in the Senate are confident they’ll be able to peel away enough Democrats to break Harry Reid’s filibuster. Which means that the bill for approval could land on President Obama’s desk in the not-too-distant future:
When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.
Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans’ 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid’s filibuster.
At that point, Obama has no choice but to take a side. Up until now he’s been able to shift some blame onto “safety concerns” and the State Department review process. He’ll have a much harder time doing this if even the Democrat-controlled Senate starts calling his bluff.
Vetoing the bill will be too politically risky. It’s more likely that Obama will sign it after digging up some justification for the flip-flop. The new route proposed by TransCanada, which circumvents some of the areas in Nebraska that green groups say are environmentally-sensitive, will provide the president with a passable excuse. At HotAir, Ed Morrissey predicts:
Expect him to pounce on the new route application as a catalyst for preliminary approval — and then to stall the final approvals needed within the bureaucracy, where he can act without too much observation.
Yup. And Obama may not even have to work very hard to ensure a drawn-out approval process. According to reports, officials say the process will likely run seven to nine months – which would take us just beyond the November election.