Amid the Senate race, House approves Keystone XL pipeline

It has been a big part of the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana: A vote was taken in Congress on Friday approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The House approved Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy's legislation that mirrors Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu's legislation that is expected to be voted on next week in the Senate.

But pundits said with a presidential veto a real possibility, it may amount to political theater in the end.

The vote was 252 to 161 in favor of the legislation.

"We're hoping to pressure the Senate to actually pass [it], said Cassidy. "This is the ninth bill that we've sent there that would get the Keystone on the approval pathway, if you will."

"The minute we got a scheduled vote in the Senate, the House of Representatives decided they were going to take up the same exact bill and pass it and today they did," Landrieu said.

The votes are playing out as Landrieu and Cassidy are in a bitter runoff campaign that will be decided next month. The Senate will vote on identical legislation co-sponsored by Landrieu and a Republican senator next Tuesday.

"I called for a vote on the Keystone Pipeline, not Harry Reid, not Mitch McConnell and not John Cornyn, I called for a vote," said Landrieu.

Cassidy has hammered Landrieu for not getting a vote, even though she chairs the Senate energy committee.

"Senator Reid would never bring it up when it was only those 40,000 Americans whose jobs were at stake, I gather now that Senator Landrieu is in a tough battle with me, he will," Cassidy said.

"The Democratic leader stopped it and the Republican leader stopped it, but I never stopped working on it," Landrieu said.

UNO Political Scientist Ed Chervenak does not see the Senate vote as a game-changer in Landrieu's tough re-election bid.

"It's just a way for her to try to mobilize her base," she said. "She's got to get turnout in December."

Sixty votes are needed for passage in the senate. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, which would run from Canada to Texas. President Barack Obama has not warmed up to the idea. He said this week it is not a major jobs bill. Indeed, most of the jobs are tied to construction of the pipeline.

And a veto is seen as a strong possibility.

"It's kind of an exercise in futility," Chervenak said.

And when Cassidy was asked whether he or Landrieu should get the credit for fighting harder, to get the project voted on, he said: "The House has passed eight different versions. The Senate is finally considering. But if it goes to the president's desk as Cassidy/Landrieu who cares? Forthy-thousand workers will have the opportunity for better jobs with better benefits."

As for Landrieu, Chervenak said perception among voters will be key.

"I think the only way it hurts her is that perceptually and that it seems to be a real Hail Mary pass, a real desperation" he said.

Cassidy said if final passage happens in the Senate and the president vetoes the legislation, he believes the GOP-controlled Senate, which takes over in January, could have the votes needed for an override.

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