Keystone will dominate the Senate schedule this week, while the House will focus on an abortion bill and both chambers gather Tuesday to hear President Obama deliver his State of the Union address.
Some hope appeared mid-afternoon Tuesday in the Senate when Republicans and Democrats managed to come to agreement on the first three amendments that could get votes on the floor this week. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is managing the floor debate with Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, said the two lawmakers are “working together to figure out how to organize a flow of amendments through the floor.”
Last week, both Republicans and Democrats took a few days away from the floor to attend retreats. This week, business on Tuesday will stop mid-afternoon in preparation for the annual State of the Union address.
A key test for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise of open amendments will be the Democrats’ statement on the science of climate change. It is the most controversial of the amendments on tap, but it isn’t one of the agreed-to first amendments. Democrats will insist on a climate-change vote before debate on Keystone is over. Without it, they are likely to throw up as many procedural hurdles as they can on other issues. Hence the delay.
Nevertheless, the Keystone voting will kick off this week with a bipartisan energy-efficiency package from Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. The other two amendments from Democrats are intended to send the message that the pipeline should not simply be a boon to international oil exporters. One, sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, bars exports of oil shipped on the pipeline, and a second, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, would require the pipeline be made with domestic materials and labor.
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