The Maine senator confirms that he will vote against the project that a Louisiana Democrat considers crucial to saving her career.
By Kevin Miller, Staff Writer
Portland Press Herald news story
Maine Sen. Angus King said he plans to cast a pivotal vote against a Keystone XL pipeline bill on Tuesday, potentially scuttling supporters’ efforts to move the issue forward in the Senate.
King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been in the national spotlight in recent days as a possible 60th vote that Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., needs to advance the bill – and potentially to save her political career. Maine’s junior senator ended the speculation on Tuesday, one day after saying he was a “probable no” on the bill.
“Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” King said in a statement. “And while I am frustrated that the President has refused to make a decision on the future of the pipeline, I don’t believe that short-circuiting the process to circumvent his Administration is in the best interest of the American people. I urge the President to make a decision soon, and, if he doesn’t, I look forward to working with Congress to put a time frame on this decision.”
Tuesday night’s scheduled vote is about more than simply TransCanada’s plan for a pipeline connecting Canada’s oil-rich province of Alberta with refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, however.
Facing a runoff election against a Republican opponent, Landrieu has waged a personal campaign to pass a bill that would bypass the Obama administration by allowing construction to proceed on the 1,200-mile pipeline that will carry so-called “tar sands” oil to refineries in her state. The White House has hinted that Obama could veto the bill in order to allow his administration’s environmental review to continue.
But Landrieu and her supporters hope Senate passage will help close the polling gap against her opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, and keep one more seat in Democratic hands when Republicans take control of the Senate next year.
All 45 Senate Republicans – including Maine Sen. Susan Collins – are expected to vote for the bill. Without King’s support, Landrieu appears stuck at 59 votes – one short of the 60 needed to advance the measure under the Senate’s filibuster rules. The Republican-controlled House has already passed a bill sponsored by Cassidy.
The pressure has been on King to support the Senate bill despite previous votes and statements expressing support for the Obama administration’s review. In 2013, King opposed a non-binding budget amendment urging approval of the pipeline. He has also called for an intensive environmental review of proposals to move tar sands oil through an existing pipeline connecting Montreal and South Portland.
On the eve of the Senate vote, the American Petroleum Institute apparently sponsored automated telephone calls, or “robocalls,” to Maine voters saying, “it is time for the Obama Administration and Congress to stop putting political interests ahead of what’s best for the nation.”
“Please call Senator Angus King . . . and tell him to do the right thing and support the Keystone XL pipeline,” the robocall stated, according to a recording of the call. An American Petroleum Institute spokesman declined to comment specifically on the calls but said the industry trade group as “a broad ongoing national issue education campaign that is focused on the benefits of energy development, jobs and energy security, including benefits of approving the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Opponents of the pipeline have also been lobbying King, a former two-term governor who was heavily involved in development of wind power and other renewable energy in Maine.
Glen Brand, director of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, praised King’s decision to vote against the Senate bill.
“By saying ‘no’ to Keystone and dirty tar sands oil, Senator King is demonstrating much-needed leadership on climate (change) and environmental protection,” Brand said Tuesday afternoon.