A top advocate for approving the Keystone XL pipeline project predicts the Senate will vote on it next week even if a bipartisan energy efficiency bill gets derailed.
North Dakota Republican John Hoeven said he spoke with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., late Thursday and indicated that there may be significant restrictions on amendments to the energy measure championed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
"Whether the energy efficiency bill will pass I think depend in part on whether there's some willingness by the majority in the Senate to allow reasonable amendments and a reasonable process," Hoeven said. "That may well determine the fate of the energy efficiency bill, and I've got amendments that are included in that bill, and I think they're very good amendments, but you've got to have some kind of open process in order to get support for this underlying legislation."
"At this point, I believe either way we will then proceed to Keystone XL," he said.
Hoeven, the lead sponsor of a revised bill providing for approval of the pipeline project, indicated that he remained short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster threat, however.
"Getting to 60 is going to be a real challenge because of the hard push ... from the White House," Hoeven said, later expressing the belief that President Barack Obama opposed pipeline approval, which has been indefinitely delayed.
"We'll proceed to the energy efficiency bill next week. There will be a vote on that Tuesday morning, and I anticipate we'll proceed to that bill," Hoeven said.
Reid moved to limit debate on taking up the Shaheen-Portman legislation before the Senate adjourned Thursday evening.
"And then there would be a vote on Keystone following our work on the energy efficiency bill ... immediately following the energy efficiency bill."
Hoeven also said in the interview that will air Sunday on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program that Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., was working to try to get additional Democratic votes to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster threat, with 11 members of the Democratic caucus already on board.
"She's pushing very hard to get some more support," Hoeven said. "And understand, this is a very important project to our country because we need infrastructure as part of our energy development. It's a very important project to Louisiana because they have refineries down there that need the oil that this pipeline brings both from Canada and from states like mine in North Dakota, Montana and the whole Bakken region."
Landrieu and her home state colleague Republican David Vitter are significant players in the floor proceedings , with Vitter having renewed his push for an amendment regarding federal contributions to health care benefits for members of Congress and their staffs. Vitter on Thursday proposed a deal that would've allowed for five GOP amendments related to energy policy as part of the Shaheen-Portman debate, leaving his health care amendment on the sidelines. Democrats did not take that offer.