Thursday, November 20, 2014

Welcome to the New Pipeline Crossroads of the World

I was curious to see if the Republicans were really gaining any ground in the Senate on Keystone, and it seems they will be picking up three seats.  Five of the Democrats who voted for Keystone are being replaced by Republicans, so no gains here.  The Republican will pick up West Virginia, South Dakota and Colorado, where outgoing Democratic senators voted against the bill.  Assuming the Republicans keep the remaining Democrats on board for another vote early in the new year, they will have enough votes to carry the bill, but not enough to override a veto, lest they convince five more senators that Keystone will make America more beautiful.

As Paul Waldman notes, you have to wonder why Democrats Mark Warner, Robert Casey, Michael Bennet and Tom Carper voted for Keystone, since it doesn't affect their states and they are relatively secure in their seats.  Maybe they thought it was actually good for the country despite everything that has been said against Keystone, or that one way or another this pipeline is getting built whether Obama accepts it or not.

The southern leg of Keystone is already open for business, supplying tar sand oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas, for refinement.  TransCanada has already considered bypassing the contested areas, even if it brings additional costs.  One way or another, this pipeline will be built, so why are the Republicans so determined to get this bill through Congress?

I suppose it is a way to prove to their political benefactors that they can override the President, setting up a big showdown next year.  There are also tax subsidies attached to the bill, making it more lucrative to the refineries associated with the deal.

However, Obama no longer seems interested in a deal.  There was a time the Senate Republicans could have gotten the President to sign onto Keystone had they been less determined to block his initiatives, administrative and judicial appointments.  Price you pay for trying to make Obama a "one-term president."

Such deal-making used to be part and parcel of the Congressional process, but today's Republicans worry too much how these deals sit with their deeply conservative electorate, as it leaves the door open to being teabagged in the primaries.  Can't have that.  So, you can expect another threatened shutdown of government (blamed on Obama of course) in an effort to get the President to see the light so that they don't have to muster the additional votes for an override.

It's a rather sloppy game plan, but then it worked this last time around.  The electorate seemed to forget the shutdown the Republicans engineered at the end of 2013 thanks to all the unrest in the Middle East.  Almost makes you wonder who really is behind this Sunni uprising?  It wouldn't be the first time Republicans stirred a hornet's nest in the region for their own political gain.

Whatever the case, Keystone now seems a part of our landscape whether we like it or not.

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