WASHINGTON – Maryland’s two Democratic U.S. senators voted against the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday, joining a majority of Democrats who continued to oppose the controversial project despite Republican gains in this month’s midterm elections.
Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin joined 37 other Democrats and two independents in opposition to a bill authorizing construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline, meant to carry Canadian tar sands to Texas.
“Quality American jobs are being created in the oil industry and clean energy sectors without the ‘Northern Leg’ of the Keystone XL, which would transport oil for export and not for U.S. consumption,” said Cardin, in a statement before Tuesday’s vote.
Senators debated for six hours before the roll call. The bill failed 59-41, one vote short of the needed 60.
All 45 Republicans were joined by 14 Democrats in support of the bill. One of those Democrats was Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who sponsored the bill.
Some observers saw the vote largely as symbolic, since President Barack Obama was likely to veto the bill pending a government review.
Jeremy Alford, an editor and publisher of LaPolitics, a leading blog about Louisiana politics, said the Senate holding the pipeline vote was a sign that Democrats had not abandoned Landrieu, who was pushing the bill.
Landrieu, the current chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, faces a runoff election against Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, in December.
For her, it was “the way to demonstrate her bona-fide credentials as a supporter of energy in the region,” said Robert Hogan, a political scientist at Louisiana State University.
For national Democrats, it was also, perhaps, an important symbolic chance – at least, until next year – to cool down Republicans eager to capitalize on their recent success in the midterms.
However, on the Senate floor Landrieu was compelled to field arguments from her fellow Democrats, a majority of whom remained adamantly against Keystone.
“This debate is about giving competitive advantage for the shipping of the dirtiest oil located in Canada over the United States for export,” Cardin said, during the Senate floor debate.
Later in his speech, Cardin said the pipeline poses significant environmental risks. He said the bill would eliminate appropriate executive review, interfere with judicial review and create very few permanent jobs, concerns voiced by other Democrats.
He called on senators to demonstrate U.S. leadership in reducing the country’s carbon footprint by rejecting the pipeline.
To counter Cardin, Landrieu pointed to the Keystone environmental study by the State Department. The study found the increase in greenhouse gases would be extremely low and equivalent to approximately 300,000 passenger vehicles, 0.12 percent of the total number of cars in the U.S., Landrieu said.
The Senate vote came after the House approved the pipeline Friday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, the incoming majority leader, said Republicans will bring the bill up again next year in the 114th Congress and expect to pass it.