Senate Democrats Hold Up Keystone Vote
Senate Democrats successfully stalled a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline on Monday, voting down a motion to cut off debate on the controversial bill that has taken up weeks of discussion in the upper chamber.
The Senate voted 53-39 against cutting off debate after Democrats said there are still amendments they want to vote on. The Senate has been debating Keystone since voting to bring it to the floor two weeks ago. Newly in charge Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to close off debate and pass the final bill Monday evening.
“It’s about time to bring the Keystone debate to a positive conclusion and we’ll do that soon,” McConnell said on the Senate floor prior to the vote. “We’ve had a lot of floor discussion, we’ve considered Democrat and Republican amendments. All in all, the last few weeks have been time well spent. The debate has been good for our country but tonight is our chance to notch another win for the middle class by supporting cloture and then actually passing this bipartisan jobs bill.”
More than 100 amendments have been offered to the legislation, and the Senate voted last week on more than 20 of them. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said members of his party are frustrated with McConnell for attempting to close off debate.
“Senator McConnell promised an open process,” Schumer said after the vote. “Then Thursday night we sort of saw what that open process meant … when he moved to table all the democratic amendments and wouldn’t even let people like Sen. [Patrick] Leahy speak for one minute to explain their amendments. So today Democrats reaffirmed we wanted to continue that open process and we’re not going to let Sen. McConnell shut the process down.”
McConnell, in anticipation of the move by Democrats to block the legislation, said before the vote was cast he was not happy with the minority’s move.
“This is really disappointing when you consider all that our friends on the other side have been saying about the filibuster for so many years,” McConnell said. “What’s most disappointing though is the apparent reasoning for the Keystone filibuster. The Democratic leadership is claiming that there haven’t been enough … ha ha … enough opportunities to consider amendments.”
Four Democrats – Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – joined Republicans in voting to end debate on the bill. Heitkamp said she thought the vote would have gone differently if not for the way debate was shut off last week, which she said was “disappointing.” Despite that, she said she thinks the time for talk is over.
“I’d love to see the president decide Keystone and move on,” Heitkamp said. “We’ve got a lot of issues that are pending in this body that need to be addressed. This isn’t the only energy issue that needs to be addressed and we need to somehow move on.”
Eight senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – were absent from the vote for various reasons. Minority Leader Harry Reid missed the vote while recovering from surgery he had earlier Monday to address problems from an injury he sustained early this year. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was traveling to Saudi Arabia for the funeral of recently deceased King Abdullah.