With the Senate and House both taking up votes on the Keystone XL pipeline, is there enough momentum in Congress to get a bill to the president's desk? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Manuel Quiñones discusses the latest vote counts and the politics surrounding the push on pipeline legislation. He also talks about how the outcome could affect the Louisiana Senate runoff between Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. The Senate and the House are both moving quickly on Keystone XL votes. E&E Daily's Manuel Quiñones joins me with some breaking news on the vote counts and details on the politics. Manuel, Louisiana Senate runoff has come to Washington. Sen. Landrieu, Congressman Cassidy both have bills in either chamber to try to move ahead on Keystone XL and also garner some votes in their runoff.
Manuel Quiñones: They hope.
Monica Trauzzi: What's the latest on the Senate vote count?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, we were at 58 with Sen. Carper as of yesterday. We just heard that Sen. Michael Bennet is a possible, in fact, a likely yes, so that brings us to 59. And there are undecideds, including, we're hearing, Angus King of Maine and maybe Bill Nelson of Florida, who is sending mixed messages from his office. So, they could actually get the 60 they need.
Monica Trauzzi: And they have until Tuesday to do it.
Manuel Quiñones: They have until Tuesday, and there's been a lot of pressure on both sides. On the pro-Keystone side, Sen. Landrieu, Sen. Hoeven and others are lobbying hard on the environmental side. They're already starting to mobilize people to call senators who may be undecided and urge them to please don't vote for this.
Monica Trauzzi: So, if this does pass in the Senate, will pass in the House, gets to the president's desk, what does he do? Is he compelled to then sign? He has a few options.
Manuel Quiñones: Well, the president can definitely just let the bill sit there and become law without his signature, and that could be something he could do to allow it to happen, to allow it to get off his desk and at the same time not put his signature on it. But if he does sign, he would have to decide way before the runoff election in Louisiana. He has been very cagey. The White House has been very cagey as to what the president would do. They have not issued a veto threat, and when they're asked repeatedly, they have failed to issue a clear yes or no.
Monica Trauzzi: So, what're the possible hurdles standing in the way heading into Tuesday?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, I think the lobbying is a big hurdle, because members are hearing from a lot of people, and a lot of this has been to influence the Louisiana Senate race, and we're seeing new polls showing that Sen. Landrieu remains behind. So it remains to be seen how much is this actually having an impact, and that may weigh on senators' minds who are on the fence thinking, "Is this really going to help my colleague Mary Landrieu, or should I vote my conscience instead?"
Monica Trauzzi: So, if this does pass, could it signal some kind of momentum on bipartisanship for the next Congress?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, that is exactly what a lot of lawmakers are saying that it's signaling, but at the same time last night on the Senate floor there was a debate over who was going to take the most credit for this. So, one of the first exercises in bipartisanship in Washington has devolved into, in a way, name-calling and jockeying for credit, which does not bode well for what's going to happen next year, because the Republicans really want to own all these things, and they are very upset that the Democrats are trying to wrestle it away from them.
Monica Trauzzi: How surprised was the environmental community by the rapid momentum on this vote?
Manuel Quiñones: I think everyone was pretty surprised on both sides. We started hearing rumors early on but really earlier this week that this could happen, and then suddenly they get back on Wednesday. Mary Landrieu hits the floor at almost 2 p.m. when they get back, and it just starts and it's like a rush of momentum, and it's been like that ever since.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, this'll be interesting to watch through Tuesday --
Manuel Quiñones: Very much so.
Monica Trauzzi: -- and even after. Thank you for coming on the show.
Manuel Quiñones: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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