Defying President Barack Obama, 28 House Democrats joined Republicans Friday to help pass legislation to jump-start the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline project.
The defections are another indication that moderate Democrats, frustrated with midterm losses and weary of defending an unpopular president, may be more willing to break ranks with party leaders in 2015. A day earlier, three top leaders of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to veto the bill, as he has promised, should it come to his desk.
"The Blue Dog Coalition stands ready to work with you and Congressional leaders to provide stringent oversight of construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, but we cannot miss this opportunity to create good paying jobs and put America on the path to be less reliant on oil from our foes," wrote Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Jim Costa of California.
A few lawmakers who align themselves with the more centrist New Democrat Coalition were also among the "yes" votes, but the support from Democrats was not strictly limited to the center of the party: Progressives such as Assistant Leader James E. Clyburn of South Carolina and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas voted in favor of the legislation, too.
A House Democratic aide said leadership had expected there would be roughly 30 defections from inside the caucus, so the final tally did not come as much of a surprise.
House Republicans carried the measure across the finish line, where the final tally was 266-153. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., voted "present," in keeping with his personal rule not to vote for any bill that benefits one corporation.
Lawmakers who oppose the Keystone project argue the potential negative environmental impact would outweigh the economic boons.
Democrats were united in opposition to the terms by which the legislation was brought to the floor. It did not go through "regular order" — that is, via committee markups — and House Republican leaders opted not to allow amendments to be made to the bill during chamber consideration.
Over in the Senate, there was a panel markup on companion legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to an open amendment process.
There is no telling how that process could derail eventual support for the underlying measure, or if Senate Republicans even have enough Democratic allies on this issue to withstand the procedural hurdles necessary to begin debate.
And then there's that pesky veto pledge.
Here's the list of Democrats who voted for the Keystone bill.
Brad Ashford, Neb. Sanford D. Bishop Jr., Ga. Robert A. Brady, Pa. Cheri Bustos, Ill. James E. Clyburn, S.C. Jim Cooper, Tenn. Jim Costa, Calif. Henry Cuellar, Texas Mike Doyle, Pa. Gwen Graham, Fla. Al Green, Texas Gene Green, Texas Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Daniel Lipinski, Ill. Dave Loebsack, Iowa Sean Patrick Maloney, N.Y. Patrick Murphy, Fla. Rick Nolan, Minn. Donald Norcross, N.J. Collin Peterson, Minn. Cedric L. Richmond, La. Kurt Schrader, Ore. David Scott, Ga. Terri Sewell, Ala. Alberto Sires, N.J. Mark Veasey, Texas Filemon Vela, Texas Tim Walz, Minn.
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