Democrats try to save a single job with Keystone XL vote


MARY’S MOMENT: Can the senator secure 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to win passage of the Keystone XL pipeline?

By Dustin Hurst |

Never mind the 42,000 temporary construction jobs the Keystone XL Pipeline could create.

Never mind the billions of dollars in new economic power the project would generate in a still-recovering economy.

Instead, worry only about the one: U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana.

After years of waiting, the U.S. Senate will vote Tuesday on the controversial pipeline project. The vote comes just days after the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly approved the project, 252-161.

But Tuesday’s vote is largely meaningless, another act of political theater. President Obama is an opponent of the pipeline project and is expected to veto the measure if the Senate passes it.

So, the project will remain on hold, as it’s been since late 2008, when builder TransCanada filed its first application to build the 1,200-mile pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Neb. Because the project crosses the U.S.-Canada border, the company needs approval from the U.S. State Department to proceed with construction of the northernmost portion of the pipeline.

The vote is, instead of an authentic attempt to push forward the project, a last-ditch effort to save Landrieu’s seat, as she faces a Dec. 6 runoff election with Republican Bill Cassidy, who sponsored the Keystone bill in the House.

It’s her “Hail Mary,” as nearly every media publication has dubbed it.

The effort might not make much difference, though, as Cassidy continues to romp in polling. On Monday, Republican-aligned Gravis Marketing released a poll giving Cassidy a 59 to 38 edge over Landrieu among 643 likely voters.

For her efforts, Landrieu is at least winning shame from the green crowd, which usually aligns with Democrats. Bill McKibben, founder of and leader of the charge against Keystone, didn’t answer an email from about the issue, but one of his flacks sent a statement about the Democratic senator’s involvement.

Landrieu should know better than to undermine Obama’s climate goals and drag the Democratic Party into climate denial, solely for the fading chance of avoiding another thumping at the ballot box, said 350 Action President Karthik Ganapathy in a prepared statement. “Rising sea levels are washing away a football field’s worth of land in Louisiana every day, and voters deserve a Senator who will address that — not hide from it.”

The AFL-CIO, another group traditionally aligned with Democrats, has pushed hard for the project. The group’s president, Richard Trumka, urged Republicans and Democrats to compromise on the project to jumpstart the economy. “We want to get every jobs issue that we can out and as many jobs created as we can to get the economy going,” Trumka said earlier this month.

Political activist Phil Kerpen, president of the Republican-aligned American Commitment, told the vote could represent a huge failure for the Louisiana senator. “If it fails to get 60, Landrieu will be exposed as wholly ineffective,” Kerpen said.

Even if the vote succeeds, Kerpen doesn’t see a path for Landrieu to secure another Senate term. “Either way it’s hard to see how this exercise can save her seat,” he said.