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Keystone XL pipeline bill fails in the Senate

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tried to push a bill to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tried to push a bill to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sean Gardner/Getty Images
  1. The Senate rejected a bill to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday evening.
  2. The bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), needed 60 votes to overcome a filibuster by Senate Democrats. She only got 59.
  3. All Republican senators voted for the bill, along with 14 Democrats.
  4. Landrieu now faces a run-off for the Louisiana Senate seat against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who sponsored his own Keystone bill that passed the House on Friday. At this point, Landrieu is widely expected to lose.
  5. Republicans have vowed to keep pushing for Keystone XL in 2015 when they will have bigger majorities in Congress.
  6. The key question will be whether Obama will veto a Keystone XL bill next year.
  7. Here's our broader explainer on the debate over the pipeline.

Who voted for the Keystone XL approval bill?

All 45 Republican senators voted for the bill, which would have circumvented the State Department's current review of the pipeline and approved the project.

14 Democrats voted for the bill. Here's a list — the ones with asterisks will still be in the Senate next year:

Mark Begich (Alaska)

*Michael Bennet (Colorado)

*Tom Carper (Delaware)

*Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)

*Joe Donnelly (Indiana)

Kay Hagan (North Carolina)

*Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)

Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)

*Joe Manchin (West Virginia)

*Claire McCaskill (Missouri)

Mark Pryor (Arkansas)

*Jon Tester (Montana)

John Walsh (Montana)

*Mark Warner (Virginia)

The remaining 41 Democratic senators voted no — enough to filibuster the bill and block it.

What's next for Keystone XL?

The Obama administration is still conducting a review of the pipeline, weighing whether the project meets certain environmental criteria and is in the national interest. One hold-up? A court case before the Nebraska Supreme Court over the pipeline's path that could end up delaying the project significantly. And even if that hurdle clears, it is unclear whether Obama will approve the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Congress will keep pushing the issue. In 2015, the GOP will likely have the votes to pass a bill approving Keystone XL through the Senate — there will be 54 Republican senators next year, plus the 9 Democrats above who voted yes today.

That's enough to overcome a filibuster by the remaining Democrats, though it's not yet enough to overcome a White House veto (you'd need 67 votes in the Senate for that, and Republicans will no doubt try).

So one big question is whether President Obama would veto. Some onlookers are skeptical he could hold out forever. "People are fed up on Keystone," an aide to a moderate Democratic senator told my colleague Ezra Klein. "I don't know how Keystone isn't just approved if Republicans take over."

A lot may depend on the form that the bill takes. If Republicans sent a standalone pro-Keystone bill to the White House, Obama could veto rather easily. But if it was attached to a larger budget bill? If a government shutdown was potentially at stake? That's tougher.

It's worth noting that one key Democratic ally — the AFL-CIO — is already urging the Senate to approve Keystone XL (the union has been in favor of the pipeline for quite some time):

What's the backstory behind the Keystone XL fight?

Check out this earlier piece: The Keystone XL pipeline controversy, explained.