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Manchin on Keystone: “Sooner or Later You’ve Got to Give In to the Will of the People.”

Joe Manchin

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The ultimate Senate showdown on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline may be near, and support among Democrats has grown. This means the go-ahead to begin construction could come sooner than later.  

The key for Keystone supporters is to hit the filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold, a number that Democratic Senator Joe Manchin believes is possible.  In an appearance on Fox News, the West Virginia Senator reminded viewers that a non-binding vote last year had 62 supporters.  He said he believes the votes are still there and that if a few more Democrats come around the project could end up reading as a positive for the White House. The Obama administration has been derided for putting politics over policy on this issue.

Manchin addressed the balance between left-leaning reluctance and the general population’s support for the project:

“We don’t want to usurp anyone’s power, but if it gives the White House some protection from the environmental community coming after them, sooner or later you’ve got to give in to the will of the people.

According to The Hill, Manchin and bill sponsor Mary Landrieu are joined by nine other Democrats who have come out in favor of the project.  

Bill Nelson (FL), Michael Bennet (CO), Tim Johnson (SD), Bob Casey (PA), Tom Carper (DE) and Chris Coons (DE) are prime targets to reach the the 60-vote mark. But the method of the vote may determine each of these wild cards’ support.  Republicans are pushing for a binding vote which would include an amendment to an energy efficiency bill set to be voted on in the upcoming weeks.  Sen. Landrieu, on the other hand, has adamantly supported keeping Keystone XL as a stand-alone issue.  Congressional sources have told The Hill that if the vote for Keystone XL is binding, Sens. Nelson, Johnson, and Coons would vote against it.  

Explaining Sen. Coons stance was his spokesperson, Ian Koski:

“Senator Coons believes the law makes clear that it’s up to the administration to make permitting decisions like this one. He’s frustrated with how long it’s taking for a decision to be made, but doesn’t think it’s Congress’ role to be issuing construction permits,”

Like many other major issues of the Obama presidency, the future of the Keystone XL will come down to the Senate’s ability to compromise.  The issue has become over-politicized with arguments over the number of jobs and the environmental impact of the project spiralling out of unfounded control.  If the Senate can get the number of votes needed, the bill would likely pass the Republican-dominated House and make it to the desk of President Obama. He would then be faced with his clearest opportunity yet to side with a majority of Americans and put people to work.


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