- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2021

Senate Republicans were buoyant when two Democrats joined them in passing a pro-Keystone XL amendment as part of the overnight marathon budget debate, but the GOP elation was short-lived.

After voting for the measure to support the pipeline, Sens. Joe Manchin and Jon Tester voted against it, joining the rest of the Democratic caucus early Friday in passing an amendment by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to strip the Keystone XL language from the budget resolution.

What frustrated supporters is that a vote from either Mr. Manchin or Mr. Tester would have saved the Keystone amendment, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, aimed at boosting legislation to authorize the pipeline after President Biden killed it on his first day in office.

A Daines spokesperson blasted the flip-flop, saying that the Democrats “caved to Schumer and the far-left agenda, all while abandoning Keystone.”

“In the wee hours of the morning, in the most DC swampy way possible, Senate Democrats flip-flopped on their support for American energy and union jobs by killing Senator Daines‘ Keystone XL Pipeline amendment and another supporting fracking,” said the Daines press release. “They thought they could get away with it while the American people were asleep.”

The Schumer measure also knocked out two other amendments that passed earlier in the evening: A pro-fracking measure sponsored by Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, that passed 57-43, and a measure sponsored by Sen. Todd Young, Indiana Republican, to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving Economic Impact Payments, which passed 58-42.

Mr. Manchin and Mr. Tester voted in favor of both those amendments as well as the Keystone XL measure, but all three amendments were wiped out by Mr. Schumer’s proposal, which passed 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris representing the tie-breaker.

Tester spokesperson Sarah Feldman said the Montana Democrat “has and continues to support the Keystone pipeline, and any statement to the contrary is incorrect.”

“He has consistently fought for the project for a decade, and just this week met with President Biden and directly reiterated his support for the pipeline’s construction in Montana,” Ms. Feldman said in an email. “In the only vote directly on the Keystone pipeline last night, Senator Tester joined his Republican colleagues to support it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to resurrect the three amendments on the floor, but his amendment failed on a 51-50 vote.

“What they have done here is totally reverse three important amendments that were adopted on a bipartisan basis,” Mr. McConnell said. “They’ve in effect take out the proposal that prevented checks from going to illegals, they’ve taken out support for fracking, and taken out support for the Keystone pipeline. They’re trying to reverse what they previously adopted along with us on a bipartisan basis.”

Both Mr. Manchin of West Virginia and Mr. Tester have spoken out against the president’s Jan. 20 executive order rescinding the 2017 cross-border permit for the 1,179-mile pipeline project running from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.

Mr. Biden’s order came as part of his sweeping climate agenda aimed at reducing emissions, while critics said the decision is expected to cost an estimated 11,000 U.S. and Canadian jobs and more than $1.6 billion in wages.

Mr. Daines‘ office said that the Democrats “had maximum leverage and could have forced Biden’s hand to protect Keystone jobs and blue-collar workers.” The pro-Keystone amendment passed 52-48.

The Senate passage of the budget resolution Friday with no Republican votes clears the way for Mr. Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, but the three amendments would have undoubtedly run into opposition in the House.

“Ultimately, last night’s votes were about passing COVID relief for Montana families, workers, and small businesses, and Senator Tester supported a final resolution that would allow that critical relief to move forward so we can get Montana’s economy back on track,” Ms. Feldman said.

Mr. Manchin has also come out against Mr. Biden’s decision to kill the pipeline permit.

“I’ve seen a train blow up in West Virginia carrying that crude. I’ve seen tanker cars explode going through towns. It’s much safer in that pipeline than it is coming across the road or the rail,” Mr. Manchin said on Fox News. “If they think they’re going to stop that product, that’s a heavy crude we need in our refineries.”

The KXL amendment would have expedited Mr. Daines‘ legislation to authorize the Keystone project, which has 14 Republican cosponsors. Neither Mr. Manchin nor Mr. Tester has signed onto the measure.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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