US senators worked late into the night on Thursday, voting on amendments to a bill that would allow construction of a controversial pipeline – known as Keystone XL – that would carry oil from the Canadian tar sands of Alberta to the US Gulf Coast.
The Senate’s nocturnal efforts have pushed the Keystone XL bill to the brink of a vote in the upper house of Congress, which is expected for next week, according to a report from Fox News.
US President Barack Obama threatens to make senators’ efforts Thursday night in vain, as he has promised to veto any bill that arrives on his desk allowing the construction of the pipeline, though he did indicate that he may be willing to negotiate on Keystone if it came to him as part of a much broader infrastructure plan.
As of Friday, no such large-scale infrastructure bill has made any progress in Congress.
What kept senators up past their bedtimes, however, was a series of 15 amendments that have been tacked onto the pipeline legislation. Of those amendments, two were passed, six were rejected and the remaining nine were tabled.
The two amendments that were passed were one that approves a tax on each barrel of unrefined oil that passes through the pipeline and one that ensures no private property will be taken to make way for the pipeline, according to the Library of Congress.
Keystone XL is proposed to be a 1,179-mile (1,897-km) pipeline that would connect Alberta’s tar sands to an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska. From Steele City, the oil would be taken to the Gulf Coast. The issue has been divisive in the US, often falling roughly along party lines.
Democrats criticised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying the Republican leader rushed the voting on Thursday night.
“Forcing the Senate to vote on amendments they haven't had a chance to read and denying senators the chance to speak on their own amendments for a single minute is a severe breach of Senate norms and protocol, and is certainly not in keeping with the Senate's traditions of open debate,” Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the House passed legislation approving the construction of Keystone XL for the tenth time. The Senate is expected to vote on the pipeline next week and would need a two-thirds majority to override Mr Obama's promised veto. A two-thirds vote would also be required in the House of Representatives to void the veto.
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