This vote was on an amendment that would have restricted the use of eminent domain during construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) offered the amendment to a Republican bill that would override President Obama’s denial of a permit to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would connect the oil-rich “tar sands” of Alberta, Canada, to markets in the United States.
Rep. Rush cited reports that TransCanada, the company that hoped to build the pipeline, had been “threatening American citizens with eminent domain, basically telling people, ‘If you don't give us access to your land, … then we're going to take it.’” Eminent domain is the government’s power to seize private property needed for public use, as long as the landowner is compensated.
“People might be surprised to learn that TransCanada has been bullying the American people – American landowners – and has been pressuring them to allow the company to build a pipeline through their land,” Rep. Rush said. “We have a duty to protect our citizens from being bullied into giving up their land against their will for the gain of private foreign companies.”
Republicans accused Rep. Rush of trying to kill the pipeline project. They said states have processes in place to resolve disputes about allowing pipelines and other infrastructure right-of-way through private land. Restricting eminent domain would allow a few opponents of the pipeline to derail the entire project, they said.
“This amendment, in essence, is a way of killing this pipeline. Let's be clear about this,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said. “The pipeline is 1,700 miles, and through each state this proposed pipeline would pass, the pipeline company would negotiate with the landowners on the proposed routes. So, if you have one person who objects, then he can ostensibly kill the pipeline.”
Rep. Rush’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 149-276. Voting “yea” were 146 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 3 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 235 Republicans and 41 Democrats. As a result, Republican legislation to authorize construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline moved forward without restrictions on the use of eminent domain.