After six years of discussion, the Keystone pipeline is finally going to get an up or down vote on the U.S. Senate floor, confirming the adage, elections have consequences. What led to this change? Politics.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mary Landrieu, the embattled Democrat, facing a Dec. 6 runoff, called on the Senate to put the Keystone pipeline issue up for a vote. She was pushing for this to be the first order of business in the lame-duck session of Congress.
In quick turn, the Democratic leadership blessed the gambit, in what political reporters on Capitol Hill are calling the "Hail Mary" to save Landrieu's Senate seat. The idea is to get her name on the bill that approves the pipeline, which is very popular in her home state of Louisiana, where she is behind in in the polls.
Late Wednesday the Republican leadership announced they had a deal with Democrats for a vote as early as Tuesday. How did the decisions to vote next week happen? Politics.
When House leadership got wind of the Hail Mary, they quickly crafted a Keystone pipeline bill to hit the House floor this week. The author of the bill is listed as Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican congressman from Louisiana and the candidate facing Landrieu in the Dec. 6 runoff election for the Senate seat.
The political calculus goes something like this: Passing the Cassidy bill on the House floor this week will give him top billing in the news cycles through the weekend and the final bill will likely bear both of their names.
In addition to the timing issues, the bill will need 60 votes to overcome procedural hurdles. Until now the best Keystone had done was 54 votes. This means passage will require six Democrats to flip their votes, something the Republican supporters of Cassidy look forward to pointing out to anyone who will listen.