Washington: Long-stalled legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas got new life after Senate Democrats suddenly abandoned efforts to block the measure in hopes of winning the last unresolved Senate race from the midterm elections.
Senate passage of the bill as early as next Tuesday would force President Barack Obama to either sign it into law or veto the measure just weeks after devastating Democratic losses in the Nov 4 elections. Obama has delayed a decision on the pipeline, which environmentalists maintain would have a negative impact and contribute to climate change.
Sen Mary Landrieu of energy-rich Louisiana, facing an uphill fight to hold her seat in a Dec 6 runoff, called for the vote on approving the pipeline project. Republicans responded swiftly, scheduling a vote in the House today on an identical bill sponsored by her Republican rival, Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Republicans and several moderate Democrats insist that construction of the pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs.
The White House had no immediate comment on the day's developments.
Republicans swept the midterm congressional elections, wresting control of the Senate and expanding their majority in the House. The Republicans are assured of 53 of the 100 Senate seats when the new Congress takes office in January. Louisiana would make it 54.
It was unclear what impact the votes would have on Louisiana's Senate race.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Landrieu spoke of bipartisanship and her willingness to work with Republicans. She pressed for a speedy vote on Keystone.
Echoing Landrieu's plea were moderate Democrats from Republican states, who argued for the project that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast. The southern leg of the pipeline between Oklahoma and Texas is already operational.