What: All Issues : Corporate Subsidies : Oil & Gas Industry : (S. 1) On a motion aimed at allowing the Senate to formally consider a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
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(S. 1) On a motion aimed at allowing the Senate to formally consider a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline
senate Roll Call 3     Jan 12, 2015
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

This vote was on a motion aimed at allowing the Senate to formally consider a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), was aimed at giving official U.S. government approval to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada, the company that wanted to build the pipeline, was seeking to connect Canada’s oil sands to the United States and, by extension, the global market for petroleum.

President Obama’s administration was in the process of reviewing TransCanada’s application to build the cross-border pipeline, but the process had dragged on and become a divisive political symbol. Sen. Hoeven’s bill would authorize TransCanada’s permit, cutting short the Obama administration’s deliberations.

However, the Senate could not hold its formal debate on Sen. Hoeven’s bill unless it first approved a “motion to proceed” to the legislation. Senate Republicans offered the motion to proceed, but this in turn could not get an up-or-down vote unless the Senate first agreed to a separate “motion for cloture.” A motion for cloture limits the time that a proposal can be debated. If the motion for cloture is not approved, senators can drag the debate on literally forever – effectively using the endless delay of a “filibuster” to kill Sen. Hoeven’s bill.

Supporters of the motion for cloture argued that Sen. Hoeven’s bill enjoyed wide majority support among members of Congress. If approved, the bill would also help create jobs by stimulating construction of the pipeline, they argued. As a result, the Senate should take up the legislation as soon as possible, they argued.

“That is important, not just because this is bipartisan legislation,” Sen. Hoeven said. “This is an opportunity for all the members of this body – Republican and Democrat – to come forward with their amendments in an open amendment process and really have an energy debate.  Let's talk about the energy future of this country and let's bring forward amendments to this legislation that can be good amendments and help us build the right kind of energy plan for our country.”

Opponents of the motion for cloture argued that the Obama administration was doing the right thing by carefully considering the proposal pipeline, and that the process should be allowed to continue. The Keystone pipeline would bring very few jobs to the United States and do nothing to lower gas prices, but it would exacerbate climate change and endanger water supplies, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) said.

“Anyone who looks at the facts and does the math ought to oppose this bill and oppose construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Sen. Schatz said. “For me and for many Americans, a vote against this bill is a vote to preserve and protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is a vote to ensure that we continue to reduce carbon pollution and fight climate change. It is a vote to leave our children a healthy world.”

The Senate agreed to the motion for cloture by a vote of 63-32. Voting “yea” were 52 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 32 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. As a result, the Senate ended debate and moved on to a separate, up-or-down vote on whether to formally consider legislation authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

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