This vote was on a Republican amendment that would have approved construction of a controversial oil pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline would connect oilfields in Alberta, Canada, to markets in the United States. It was challenged by environmental groups worried about potential oil spills and the pipeline’s effect on greenhouse gas emissions. The international project, which required approval from the Obama Administration, became a hot political topic in 2011, leading President Obama to postpone a decision until 2013. However, Republicans successfully passed legislation in late 2011 requiring a quick decision on the project, and the White House responded by rejecting the application on the grounds that there was no longer time for a full assessment.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) offered an amendment that sought to override the Obama Administration’s decision. His amendment would have given TransCanada Corp., the company proposing the pipeline, permission to move forward with construction.
“Here we are faced with a very clear choice. Do we go ahead and get oil from our closest friends and trading partner, Canada, or say no to them and have them send it to China? Do we reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and reduce the price of gas for hard-working American consumers?” Sen. Hoeven said. “Would you rather have oil produced here, in North Dakota, Montana, and in Canada, or would you rather get it from the Middle East? I know how Americans will answer that question.”
Opponents of the amendment argued that it would benefit only the major oil companies – at the expense of the environment and American consumers. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called the amendment “a rubberstamp for a project that poses serious risks to our environment and public safety.”
“The Keystone XL Pipeline will be one of the largest pipelines outside of Russia and China. It will be 1,700 miles long, cut through six States, and carry nearly 1 million barrels of tar sands oil each day,” Sen. Lautenberg said. “Keep in mind, the existing Keystone Pipeline has had 12 oil spills in its first year of operation. So before we take a shot in the dark, let's get the facts about Keystone XL.”
Even though 56 senators voted for Sen. Hoeven’s amendment and only 42 against, it was defeated because it was brought up under Senate rules that require 60 votes for passage. Voting “yea” were 45 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 42 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. As a result, Sen. Hoeven’s effort to override President Obama and approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline was defeated.