Keystone Bill Fizzles As Three Democrat Senators Flip Flop


Earlier today I wrote a post wondering if Democrats who say they want to build the Keystone pipeline really want to build it, or if it’s just a convenient contrast point with President Obama for liberals looking to get re-elected in red states.

I think the latest developments in the Senate on the bill to approve the Keystone pipeline answer the question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is anti-Keystone, surprised many observers by saying he’d be willing to allow a vote on the bill. There looked to be a chance to pass the bill, with a handful of Democrats crossing the aisle to push it through cloture, but now three Democrat Senators who were previously pro-Keystone have changed their minds.

Specifically, Senators Bill Nelson of Florida, Chris Coons of Delaware, and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Why those three?

The Keystone pipeline isn’t so important to Florida and Delaware. Plus, Senator Nelson isn’t up for re-election until 2018. The Keystone pipeline is a bit more pertinent to South Dakotans, but Senator Tim Johnson is retiring after his current term is finished.

So, basically, what Senator Reid has done is agree to allow a vote on the Keystone bill which he’ll then kill by getting some of his caucus who aren’t vulnerable on the issue to flip flop, which leaves a situation where Democrats who are vulnerable on the issue can vote for a bill that doesn’t have a chance of passing.

If this weren’t such a serious piece of public policy, one with major implications for the energy and agriculture industries – not to mention rail safety across the nation – you’d have to admire the political gamesmanship.

And for those of you keeping score at home, remember that allegedly pro-Keystone Senator Heidi Heitkamp was a vote for Harry Reid for Majority Leader and Barack Obama for President.