Bill to Authorize Construction of Keystone Pipeline Falls Short in US Senate

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U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, center, is accompanied by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, right, after the Senate voted on the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 18, 2014. The vote failed to pass by a margin of 59-41. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Senate narrowly avoided a post-election showdown between the White House and Congress on Tuesday when a bill authorizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass.

Democratic Senate leaders had authorized the vote as a boost for Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who cosponsored the bill and who faces an uphill run-off vote in December to retain her seat. A similar bill sponsored in the House by Landrieu’s opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, passed easily in a vote Friday, as have previous House proposals on the pipeline.

The Senate bill fell shy of the 60-vote threshold required for passage. When the Republicans assume control of Congress in January, they are expected to introduce their own Keystone authorization bill. The fate of the pipeline is shaping up to be a protracted clash over executive authority between Congress and the White House, a bellwether of more such actions expected over the next two years.

The White House has indicated that it will not stray from its long-standing position that the president will make the final decision on the pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. For decades, the executive branch has had the final say on projects that cross U.S. borders and require so-called presidential permits. The administration has put a review of the pipeline on hold while it awaits the results of a lawsuit in Nebraska over the pipeline’s route.

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