As the president prepares to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday, the Senate's debate over its Keystone XL bill and related amendments is heating up. What is the future of the legislation, and how will the president address the pipeline and other energy issues in his annual speech? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Manuel Quiñones discusses the most heated amendment debates and previews the president's SOTU agenda.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge. The Senate's debate on Keystone XL heats up as the president prepares to deliver his State of the Union address. E&E Daily's Manuel Quiñones is here to preview what we can expect on the Hill next week. Manuel, it seems everyone wants a piece of the Senate's amendment process on Keystone. What are emerging as the most compelling amendment debates?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, the big issue when it comes to the amendment is climate change. Many Democrats have introduced amendments to get the Senate on the record in one way or another on climate change, what to do about it, what the science says, moving away from fossil fuels. So they really want to have this debate, and so far, that's been the bulk of the amendments. We've seen about 30 amendments introduced so far as of earlier this week, when the Senate was in session, so we might see more now.
Monica Trauzzi: How do you see the congressional debate and eventual White House action all panning out on this?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, we have some minor new developments on what's going on. So Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced this morning that on Tuesday, we'll see the first series of votes on amendments. They will be on building the pipeline with -- mandating building the pipeline with U.S.-made materials, a scaled-down version of the efficiency bill that Senator Shaheen and Portman have been touting for many, many months, and an amendment by Senator Markey to prevent export of the KXL's oil. So those will be the first on tap. We'll see many others coming in the following days.
Some people say that we might see an end of the debate by next week, maybe. There may be dozens of more and more amendments, but at the same time, the congressional leaders say they don't want this to be an open-ended debate. They want it to end at some point, so even though they're proposing regular order, they're standing by regular order, they don't want this to be a free-for-all.
Monica Trauzzi: This debate is really seen as laying the groundwork for what we can expect from this Congress on energy. It would be surprising if the president mentioned Keystone XL outright in his State of the Union address, but could he do so in an indirect way or speak about the ongoing Senate debate and also weigh in on energy policy?
Manuel Quiñones: Definitely. A White House spokesman this morning I chatted with was circumspect as to what we can expect from the State of the Union. Of course they want to keep it under wraps, but it would be a surprise if the president does not focus on climate and energy. He has in previous debates.
Right now, we're in the midst of the EPA rulemaking on climate. Recently, the agency announced its policy when it comes to methane. We're seeing low gas prices; we're seeing a lot of discussion on this; and then we have a Republican-controlled Congress now that wants to move forward with energy packages. So it would be a very deep surprise if he doesn't focus on it a lot.
Monica Trauzzi: Yeah. Climate's going to be a major player in this speech. What are you going to be watching for on Tuesday night?
Manuel Quiñones: We're going to be watching to see if he signals wanting to be ... more forceful with whatever comes out of Congress, with whatever Congress does. It seems that he has been signaling things along those lines, and if he signals any desire to want to work together toward some sort of broader energy compromise rather than just laying forward his views on climate that he's already moving forward with.
Monica Trauzzi: All right. Very nice. We have a lot to watch for next week --
Manuel Quiñones: Oh yeah.
Monica Trauzzi: -- and E&E Publishing and E&ETV will have complete coverage of the State of the Union address.
Manuel Quiñones: All over.
Monica Trauzzi: Yep. All right, thanks, Manuel.
Manuel Quiñones: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.
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