This Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to pass legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The new chairwoman, Senator Mary Landrieu, will likely claim that this vote demonstrates her ability to get things done. But the committee-reported bill will do nothing to ensure construction of the Keystone XL pipeline unless the full Senate passes it and the president signs it into law. Success can only be measured at the end, not the beginning, of the lawmaking process – and should only be celebrated when thousands of workers put shovels in the ground.
“I think people see in me a fighter that never quits, never gives up, always puts the state first. May not agree with me on every one of my positions, but I think they think, ‘Gee, Louisiana does have this clout now . . . Why would we walk away from that?’ ” – Senator Landrieu, 5/26/2014
“... if there do end up being [oil] disruptions inside of Iraq ... producers in the Gulf are able to pick up the slack.” – President Obama, 6/13/2014
Senator Landrieu says that as the chair of the energy committee she has enormous power to deliver energy policies that benefit Louisiana. She can pass a bill out of committee approving the Keystone XL pipeline only because she has the votes of Republicans who require no convincing to support American energy. Her fellow Democrats on the committee, whom she now presumably leads, are expected to vote against the bill. Even Senator Mark Udall announced last week he would vote no, despite 66 percent of his constituents in Colorado supporting the project. Senator Landrieu may be willing to hold the vote, but suggesting that her leadership influenced the outcome is disingenuous.
Senator Landrieu claims she will have fulfilled her responsibilities if the energy committee reports a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline. But she knows a committee-reported bill alone will not make any difference in the lives of her constituents unless it becomes law. Her job is not done, as she has suggested, after the bill makes it through only one-third of the lawmaking process.
Senator Landrieu wants to have it both ways. She would like to take credit for passing a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline out of committee while escaping blame for her party’s agenda of blocking it. She knows that Majority Leader Reid can hold a vote on legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline at any time, whether he negotiates with Republicans and whether the energy committee even passes a bill. She knows that President Obama can administratively issue a permit for the project immediately. She also knows her party leaders have refused to take such actions for more than five years and are unlikely to do so in the future. So Senator Landrieu has decided to preemptively shirk her responsibility for negotiating the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval through the last two-thirds of the lawmaking process.
Democrats’ Anti-Energy Agenda Revealed
Senator Landrieu’s true intent is further demonstrated by her decision to take up the controversial nomination of Norman Bay to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at Wednesday’s business meeting.
- The Keystone approval bill is vital to an “all-of-the-above” energy plan, yet questions remain about the nominee’s willingness to embrace every American energy resource.
- The bill would overrule the administration’s abuse of its permitting authority over a cross-border pipeline, yet the nomination would promote someone criticized for abusing his enforcement authority at FERC.
- The bill’s potential contributions to the economy and energy security are well understood, yet the nominee’s policy positions are unclear – he lacks experience and a record as an energy regulatory and is largely nonresponsive to committee questions.
- Majority Leader Reid opposes the bill, yet he handpicked the nominee.
Senator Landrieu will not negotiate with Majority Leader Reid to bring the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline to the floor for a vote, but she will shepherd his preferred FERC nominee through the energy committee. This is not surprising. She recently stated she would support Reid again for majority leader, siding with party leaders in Washington instead of constituents in Louisiana. Her promise to support Reid guarantees that his anti-energy agenda will continue.
With the Democrats’ unraveling foreign policy, most recently embodied in the current conflict in Iraq, oil prices are soaring and upgrades to our nation’s energy security are ever more urgent. It is imperative that Senator Landrieu and other energy-state Democrats persuade their party leaders to allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline immediately. They also must forego other policies that threaten affordable, reliable, and secure American energy.
Energy-state Democrats must be judged according to the policies their party actually implements, not the policies their party leaders allow them to pay lip-service to in speeches, hearings, op-eds, and show votes. The unaffordable, unreliable, unsecure energy strategy of Washington Democrats has been enabled by the lack of influence Senator Landrieu and other energy-state Democrats have had over their party leaders. Americans can no longer afford it.