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Democrats Divide Over Keystone
Apr 23, 2012
President Obama was elected in a year that was very good for Democrats. He surely gets some of the credit for their success across the board in 2008. Since then, he has not been all that helpful. He pushed Cap & Trade and it passed the House only to die in the Senate. A lot of House Democrats thought that they had stuck their necks out for nothing.
Recently, retiring chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Barney Frank, spoke frankly about the cost that Democrats paid for passing ObamaCare. Now we have another example of a burden that the President has placed on his own party. Byron York has this at the Washington Examiner:
The president has put his feet in cement in opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline. But on Capitol Hill, more and more Democrats are joining Republicans to force approval of the pipeline, whether Obama wants it or not.
The President’s decision to delay the pipeline pleased his allies among the environmentalists and angered his allies among the unions. However that washes out for him, it has proved a problem for Congressional Democrats. At a moment when gas prices are high and jobs are scarce, it isn’t all that easy for a Senator or Representative to explain to his or her constituents why the Keystone pipeline was just the thing. The result is that a lot of Democrats are peeling off.
The latest action happened Wednesday, when the House passed a measure to move the pipeline forward. Before the vote, Obama issued a veto threat. The House approved the pipeline anyway — by a veto-proof majority, 293 to 127. Sixty-nine Democrats abandoned the president to vote with Republicans. That's a lot of defections.
When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it's an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.
The action now is in the Senate.
Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans' 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid's filibuster.
My guess is that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will manage to block a vote. After all, that is what he is good at. He has managed to avoid bringing a budget to a vote, in defiance of federal law, for three years now.
The stakes are pretty high here. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the current Keystone push a “partisan” maneuver. It is obviously a bipartisan maneuver. Sixty-nine Democrats in the House is close to half of the Democrats in the House. What happens if the Republicans do come up with two more Democratic Senators? President Obama will then have to decide whether to veto the bill or not. If he does, the House will vote to override. The Senate will sustain his veto, I am guessing.
Republicans are hoping this plays out as long as possible. They think it is a winning issue for them and they are right. The Keystone pipeline is going to be completed. If not now, then after the election. I don’t know whether the President will benefit from his decision to delay it. It’s pretty clear that it is dividing his party.
Sixty-nine Democrats peeling off on Keystone is a sign that a lot of the President’s party doesn’t think that loyalty to the President is an asset in this year’s election.