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POLITICS: PennAve

Vote on Keystone XL pipeline set for Senate panel

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Congress,Senate,2014 Elections,PennAve,Keystone XL,Energy and Environment,Zack Colman,Mary Landrieu,Oil Sands,John Hoeven,Bill Cassidy

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline that failed to get to the floor last month after negotiations regarding an energy-efficiency measure collapsed.

The bill, co-sponsored by committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., likely will clear the committee. Whether it gets a shot on the floor is another story, but it gives Landrieu, facing a tough re-election challenge from GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, an opportunity to act on the pipeline that has strong support in her state.

"Look, I can have a lot of influence — not sole — but I have a tremendous influence at the committee level as chair. Not complete — I have a minority and a majority to consult. But I can move this out of the committee," Landrieu told reporters Thursday in the Capitol.

"Then it's going to be up to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] and [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.] as to whether they can negotiate a straight-up vote on Keystone. That will be their negotiation. I will have done my part," Landrieu said.

The Canada-to-Texas pipeline would bring carbon-dense oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, a potential boon for Louisiana. But it's been in administrative limbo for nearly six years -- builder TransCanada Corp. needs a cross-border permit to finish the northern leg -- and is a flashpoint for battles between environmental and business groups.

Republicans have slammed Landrieu on the pipeline, saying that the committee chairwoman role she has championed as a reason to re-elect her has yielded little.

"Mary Landrieu's very presence in the Senate enables Harry Reid and Barack Obama to block Keystone. Sounds like she's making the case for Louisiana to vote for a Republican like Dr. Cassidy and take the Senate away from anti-energy forces like Harry Reid," said Brook Hougesen, a spokeswoman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The bill has 56 co-sponsors, which was just shy of the 60 needed to clear procedural hurdles for a vote in May. Plans to hold a stand-alone vote on the bill crumbled when Democrats and Republicans couldn't agree on a number of GOP amendments to energy-efficiency legislation.

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