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Senate Passes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill

On Thursday, the Senate passed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline, moving the Congress a step closer to a showdown with President Obama over the long-stalled project. After nearly three weeks of floor debate, the Senate passed the bill by a 62-36 vote. Debate over the legislation covered a range of topics, including prairie chickens, climate change and renewable energy. Senator Carper (D-DE) had considered an amendment to extend the alternative fuel infrastructure credit for five years but did not. Nine Democrats joined all of the Republicans present. The Senate and House, which passed a Keystone bill earlier in January, must now reconcile differences between their Keystone measures before final legislation can be sent to the White House. The chambers are expected to work quickly, and the legislation could reach the President’s desk within days. President Obama has threatened to veto the Keystone bills under consideration in Congress. It takes two-thirds of the House and Senate to overcome a veto. The President has cited the State Department review process, which has been under way for more than six years, as the reason that the president would veto the legislation. Several federal agencies face a Monday deadline to submit comments to the final part of the State Department’s review. Thursday’s vote capped debate on numerous amendments, of which just a handful were adopted. The process also provided a look at how new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) intends to manage the Senate. As the new majority leader, Senator McConnell promised to open up Senate deliberations, so Senators could offer and debate a broad range of amendments. The Keystone debate was a display of—and test of—the Majority Leader’s approach.