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The “symbolism” of Friday’s Keystone vote

Late on Friday, the United States Senate passed an amendment urging approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. That amendment, which passed by a vote of 62-37, was part of a broader budget bill approved by the Senate in the early morning hours of Saturday.

Critics were quick to note that the Senate’s action won’t green light the pipeline, which would carry supplies from Canada’s oil sands to refineries on America’s Gulf Coast. Since authority for approving the pipeline rests with President Obama, they argue, the vote was symbolic.  Move along, nothing to see here.

Just because it was symbolic, however, doesn’t mean it’s not significant.

Indeed, what makes Friday’s vote so important is the degree to which it represents strong and growing support for the project among elected Democrats – 17 of whom voted for the measure – as well as Republicans.

It’s worth noting that on a similar vote last year, Keystone XL attracted 56 votes. The pickup of six additional votes this year – all from Democratic senators – seems to reflect a growing national consensus about the project, and comes less than three weeks after a poll showing that Americans favor building the pipeline by a 70-23 percent margin.

I’ve made the case for Keystone XL on this blog several times. But don’t just take it from me. Listen to some of the arguments made by members of the bipartisan group of legislators who expressed their support for the project last week.

Budgets are about priorities and right now our number one priority needs to be creating jobs. Approving the Keystone pipeline is the perfect opportunity to put Americans to work right now. American workers cannot afford to wait any longer for Keystone jobs, and there is absolutely no excuse for further delay.

~ Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

The country will benefit from the pipeline by adding tens of thousands of jobs for Americans, billions of dollars to our economy and new tax revenue for our local, state and federal governments.

~ Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

The Keystone XL pipeline will create good-paying American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This project has undergone a thorough review and it is time to approve construction of the pipeline.

~ Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)

An “all of the above” energy strategy starts with signing off on Keystone and the tens of thousands of American jobs that come with it, which the President could do with the simple stroke of a pen.

~ Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

The Keystone XL pipeline will give our economy an added boost by creating thousands of jobs and securing a reliable energy supply close to home.

~ Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)

The Keystone pipeline is an essential job creating and North American energy project and should be approved immediately. When jobs and the economy are struggling we have an obligation to do everything we can to stimulate growth.

 ~ Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

There was something symbolic about the vote that hasn’t been getting a lot of attention: The Senate voted one year to the day after President Obama talked up the Keystone XL pipeline during an event in Cushing, Oklahoma.

The president said, “I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” Given Friday’s vote, it looks as if senators from both parties are ready to turn those words into reality.

  • Worth a deeper look...