The Senate is expected to vote on as many as three amendments to GOP-backed legislation to authorize the TransCanada Corp., pipeline on Tuesday, with more than four dozen other possibilities on the horizon.
Few are without controversy, and many are meant to send a message or put senators in a difficult spot, casting votes on such issues as protectionism, oil spills and climate change.
The first three amendments readied for floor action are:
- A proposal from Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass. and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., that would bar oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline — and any refined petroleum fuel products made from it — from being exported out of the United States. Waivers could be issued by presidents if they decide it is in the national interest.
- An amendment by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that would insist that iron, steel and manufactured goods used in the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline be produced inside the United States. An exception could be made if the material is not reasonably available or in satisfactory quality inside the United States, or if using U.S.-sourced supplies would boost the cost of the components by more than 25 percent.
- A broad bipartisan measure from Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., designed to promote energy efficiency, with new voluntary initiatives aimed at encouraging commercial building owners and their tenants to pare power consumption, requirements for federal agencies to coordinate on energy saving information technologies and a mandate for some federally leased buildings to disclose data about energy usage. The amendment is a pared-down version of a broader Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, trimmed to match a version that previously passed the House.
Supporters of the amendments on oil exports and American steel say they are necessary to ensure the 1,170-mile-long pipeline provides some value to the United States.
Pipeline backers say the project would already provide value to the United States in the form of construction jobs when it is built and by ensuring a supply of heavy crude to Gulf Coast refineries that would process it into gasoline and other petroleum products.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee who is managing the bill on the floor, signaled she opposes both proposals.
“As much as I support Buy-American and making sure that we receive the benefit of these jobs from creating these precedents, I’m concerned about the Congress setting a precedent here,” Murkowski said of the Franken amendment. “I think it puts us on a potentially pretty slippery slope: If we’re going to set the precedent here for Keystone XL, why wouldn’t we do it for other projects, wind turbines? Why not on our vehicles, on our autos? Why not everything?”
Both Democrats and Republicans have advanced proposals designed to ensure the bitumen harvested from Canada’s oil sands — the hydrocarbon that would be diluted to flow through Keystone XL — is taxed on par with other crudes.