‘Nay!’: US Senate Fails in Attempt to Force Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline

Lauren McCauley | Commondreams

In a vote on Tuesday, the measure to advance approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline failed to gather sixty votes in the US Senate. (Image: C-SPAN screengrab with overlay)

In a vote on Tuesday, the measure to advance approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline failed to gather sixty votes in the US Senate. (Image: C-SPAN screengrab with overlay)

Update (6:21 PM EST):

Falling short by a single vote, a vote in the U.S. Senate  on Tuesday evening failed to get the requisite 60 votes needed to approve a bill designed to force approval of the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The final vote was 59 in favor and 41 voting against the bill (see official roll call below). The ‘Yays’ included all the 45 Republicans in the Senate who were joined by 14 Democrats. The remaining Democrats voted ‘Nay’ against the bill, accompanied by the Senate’s two Independents, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Angus King of Maine.

Climate campaigners celebrate the vote result, even as they acknowledged the deplorable fact that such a vote took place at all.

“Once again, Congress tried to play games with our future–and failed,” said May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, in a statement. “Since Keystone XL has always been President Obama’s decision, this vote was never anything more than an empty gesture of political theater.”

Boeve suggested President Obama take the opportunity provided by the result in the Senate to reject the project once and for all. “By dramatically accelerating tar sands oil development, Keystone XL clearly fails President Obama’s own climate test,” she said. “The pipeline is a lose-lose for everyone except TransCanada. The President has all the information he needs to reject this pipeline now, and we’re going to stand by him to make sure he does.”

The Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune applauded those senators who “stood up for the health of our families and our climate” by voting against the measure. “There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL,” said Brune. “Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do.”

Following the vote,  350.org’s Jamie Henn tweeted:

Reactions to the vote were also trending on Twitter:

The complete roll call for the Senate vote follows (with Democratic ‘Yay’ votes underlined):

Alphabetical by Senator Name

Alexander (R-TN), Yea 
Ayotte (R-NH), Yea 
Baldwin (D-WI), Nay 
Barrasso (R-WY), Yea 
Begich (D-AK), Yea 
Bennet (D-CO), Yea 
Blumenthal (D-CT), Nay 
Blunt (R-MO), Yea 
Booker (D-NJ), Nay 
Boozman (R-AR), Yea 
Boxer (D-CA), Nay 
Brown (D-OH), Nay 
Burr (R-NC), Yea 
Cantwell (D-WA), Nay 
Cardin (D-MD), Nay 
Carper (D-DE), Yea 
Casey (D-PA), Yea 
Chambliss (R-GA), Yea 
Coats (R-IN), Yea 
Coburn (R-OK), Yea 
Cochran (R-MS), Yea 
Collins (R-ME), Yea 
Coons (D-DE), Nay 
Corker (R-TN), Yea 
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea 
Crapo (R-ID), Yea 
Cruz (R-TX), Yea 
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea 
Durbin (D-IL), Nay 
Enzi (R-WY), Yea 
Feinstein (D-CA), Nay 
Fischer (R-NE), Yea 
Flake (R-AZ), Yea 
Franken (D-MN), Nay
Gillibrand (D-NY), Nay 
Graham (R-SC), Yea 
Grassley (R-IA), Yea 
Hagan (D-NC), Yea 
Harkin (D-IA), Nay 
Hatch (R-UT), Yea 
Heinrich (D-NM), Nay 
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea 
Heller (R-NV), Yea 
Hirono (D-HI), Nay 
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea 
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea 
Isakson (R-GA), Yea 
Johanns (R-NE), Yea 
Johnson (D-SD), Nay 
Johnson (R-WI), Yea 
Kaine (D-VA), Nay 
King (I-ME), Nay 
Kirk (R-IL), Yea 
Klobuchar (D-MN), Nay 
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea 
Leahy (D-VT), Nay 
Lee (R-UT), Yea 
Levin (D-MI), Nay 
Manchin (D-WV), Yea 
Markey (D-MA), Nay 
McCain (R-AZ), Yea 
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea 
McConnell (R-KY), Yea 
Menendez (D-NJ), Nay 
Merkley (D-OR), Nay 
Mikulski (D-MD), Nay 
Moran (R-KS), Yea 
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murphy (D-CT), Nay 
Murray (D-WA), Nay 
Nelson (D-FL), Nay 
Paul (R-KY), Yea 
Portman (R-OH), Yea 
Pryor (D-AR), Yea 
Reed (D-RI), Nay 
Reid (D-NV), Nay 
Risch (R-ID), Yea 
Roberts (R-KS), Yea 
Rockefeller (D-WV), Nay 
Rubio (R-FL), Yea 
Sanders (I-VT), Nay 
Schatz (D-HI), Nay 
Schumer (D-NY), Nay 
Scott (R-SC), Yea 
Sessions (R-AL), Yea 
Shaheen (D-NH), Nay 
Shelby (R-AL), Yea 
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay 
Tester (D-MT), Yea 
Thune (R-SD), Yea 
Toomey (R-PA), Yea 
Udall (D-CO), Nay 
Udall (D-NM), Nay 
Vitter (R-LA), Yea 
Walsh (D-MT), Yea 
Warner (D-VA), Yea 
Warren (D-MA), Nay 
Whitehouse (D-RI), Nay 
Wicker (R-MS), Yea 
Wyden (D-OR), Nay


Student activists confront a staffer in “turncoat” Senator Michael Bennett’s (D-Colo.) office ahead of the Keystone vote. (Photo via Bold Nebraska)

Ahead of a vote scheduled for late afternoon in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, activists opposed to a measure seeking to force approval of the Keystone XL were pulling out all the stops in order to make sure key lawmakers heard their message.

A live stream of the Senate proceedings was available on C-SPAN throughout the day.

As senators one by one took the floor on Tuesday to debate passage of the Keystone XL pipeline, youth and environmental activists stormed Capitol Hill to send a last-minute message to “turncoat” Democrats: ‘Listen to the people, not corporate dollars.’

According to reports, students were arrested for blockading the office of U.S. Senator Tom Carper (Del.), where they sang and brandished a banner that read: “Sen. Carper, if you’re not a climate denier, don’t vote like one.”

Youth activists along with members of the Cowboy-Indian Alliance held a sit-in at the office of Senator Michael Bennett (Colo.)where they blocked the door and read aloudnames of communities along the tar sands pipeline route with the number of people whom would be adversely affected by its construction.

Aldo Seoane, an Indigenous activist with the Alliance, said during a press conference outside Bennett’s office that the lawmaker must “listen to the people, not just corporate money.”

The student-led actions are part of a wave of eleventh-hour demonstrations being held to prevent Democratic lawmakers from joining ranks with their GOP counterparts who are voting in favor of Big Oil interests.

On Tuesday, demonstrators in New York City, including Gasland director Josh Fox and progressive gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout, held a rally and press conference in Foley Square.

“Today’s goal: keep Big Oil from counting to 60,” wrote 350.org organizer Duncan Meisel on his Twitter feed Tuesday morning, referring to the number of votes necessary to pass the bill. In addition to 350.org, other national environmental groups including the Sierra Club have been advocating for constituents to call their lawmakers ahead of the vote.

On Monday, Senator Mary Landrieu boasted to feeling “very comfortable” that she had the 60 votes needed to advance the pipeline bill. Hoping to maintain her Senate seat in an upcoming runoff race in Louisiana, the Democratic senator is aiming sway a handful of other Democrats to vote alongside the 45 Republican ‘yes’ votes in favor of the pipeline.

Also Monday, demonstrators, including local students, a farmer from Nebraska, and representatives of Native American communities, erected a pipeline on Landrieu’s front lawn.

The vote, which is expected Tuesday evening, reportedly may come down to a single ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Independent Maine Senator Angus King, rumored to have been Landrieu’s 60th vote, waited until Tuesday afternoon before releasing a statement committing to vote against the pipeline.

In a blog post on Tuesday, the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group focused on the role of money in politics, tallied some of the money that went into swaying the “handful of centrist Democrats” on whose shoulders the Senate vote rests.

Sunlight notes: “Bennet last year received two contributions of $1,000 each from the lobbying firm that has been representing Saskatchewan, the Canadian province doing much of the lobbying for Keystone XL.”

Further, they report:

The American Petroleum Institute (API), to take one example, is a prolific campaign donor (Landrieu has been their top recipient) and a savvy player of the grassroots influence game.

API has been pressuring on the fence legislators to approve the pipeline with a series of national TV ads, like this one urging viewers in Delaware to “Tell Senators Coons and Carper: approve Keystone XL.” Sen. Tom Carper, the state’s senior Democratic senator, already announced his support for Landrieu’s measure greenlighting the pipeline.

Regardless of the vote outcome, President Obama is expected to veto any legislation to approve the pipeline, which 350.org said is a “testament to the power of courageous grassroots organizing,” which they say has “turned Keystone XL from a done deal into Big Oil’s biggest headache.”

However, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will become Majority Leader in January when Republicans take control of the Senate, assured his colleagues during comments from the Senate floor on Tuesday that should the vote fail the measure will be taken up in the next session.

In prepared remarks, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders told the Senate that scientific consensus is that we have a “narrow window of opportunity” to transform our energy system in light of the coming climate crisis. “This legislation would move us in exactly the wrong direction toward not only more dependence on fossil fuels but on some of the dirtiest fossil fuel imaginable,” Sanders added. “That is insane.”

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