This vote was on a Democratic amendment that would have required a controversial oil pipeline to be built using U.S. steel, and that oil products transported by the pipeline be sold only in the United States. Republicans argued that the amendment was designed to kill the proposed pipeline, while supporters said it would ensure the project was done right.
The Keystone XL pipeline would connect oilfields in Alberta, Canada, to markets in the United States. It was challenged by environmental groups worried about potential oil spills and the pipeline’s effect on greenhouse gas emissions. The international project, which required approval from the Obama Administration, became a hot political topic in 2011, leading President Obama to postpone a decision until 2013. However, Republicans successfully passed legislation in late 2011 requiring a quick decision on the project, and the White House responded by rejecting the application on the grounds that there was no longer time for a full assessment.
As Republicans in Congress looked for ways to override President Obama’s decision, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), an opponent of the pipeline, introduced an amendment that would require the Obama Administration to evaluate the project as quickly as possible. However, it also stipulated that the oil transported using the pipeline – as well as the gasoline or other petroleum products made from the oil – could not be exported from the United States. In addition, Sen. Wyden’s amendment required that all steel, iron, and other raw materials used to build the pipeline must be American-made.
“This amendment ensures that the Keystone Pipeline is built by American workers using American steel; that our priority is reasonably priced energy for American families and American businesses, rather than their Chinese competitors,” Sen. Wyden said. “Put simply, when you build a pipeline that is 2,000 miles across the nation, our challenge is to do it right.”
Sen. John Hoeven (D-ND), who had introduced a separate amendment simply overriding the President’s decision and allowing construction of the pipeline to move forward, argued that Sen. Wyden’s amendment was actually designed to kill the project. He argued that it would require TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, to start over, and that the additional requirements it imposes on the project amount to an “absurd level of protectionism.”
“Make no mistake: This not only requires the TransCanada start-over, it says start over after 3 1/2 years,” Sen. Hoeven said. “And it adds additional impediments to the project. With gasoline prices going up every day, we need more supply. We need it from Canada, we need it from North Dakota and Montana, not from the Middle East.”
Sen. Wyden’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 33-65. Voting “yea” were 33 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. Voting “nay” were 45 Republicans and 20 Democrats. As a result, Sen. Wyden’s effort to require that the Keystone XL pipeline be built using American-made products, and that petroleum products transported by the pipeline be sold only the United States, was defeated.