Senate GOP Accused Of ‘Closing Off Debate’ During Keystone XL Pipeline Votes

CREDIT: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), NSA defender, is in a bit of a quandary and may have to endorse legislation limiting the agency's reach.

Democrats in the Senate are accusing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of breaking his promise of an “open amendment process” for legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, after two Democrat-sponsored amendments were not brought to a vote on their merits on Tuesday.

Instead of taking up actual “yes” or “no” votes on the amendments, the Senate voted to table — meaning, effectively kill — those two measures. One, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), would have required that all the Canadian oil shipped through the Keystone XL pipeline stay in America, and not be shipped overseas. The other, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), would have required that only American-made steel and iron be used to build the pipeline.

The vote to table meant that Senators were not voting on whether they agreed with the content of the amendment, but whether to consider the amendment at all. According to Markey, that doesn’t count as an “open” process.

“Senate Republicans promised an open amendment process, but they are closing off debate, and not allowing a vote on the very first amendment considered by the Senate,” Markey said in a statement following the vote to kill his amendment, National Journal reported.

Sen. Harry Reid’s digital director Faiz Shakir echoed Sanders’ sentiment, saying McConnell’s promise of an “open amendment process” was not a true attempt at bipartisan lawmaking.

“What we’re seeing now is that McConnell is literally ‘going through the motions’, making the Senate simply appear like it’s functioning when he’s actually just shutting Democrats out from impacting the bill,” Shakir said via e-mail.

Last week, McConnell said that he would allow the Senate to vote on any amendment put forward on the Keystone XL bill. With that promise, many Democratic senators hoped to achieve a bvote on a resolution simply stating that climate change is real and caused by humans. A vote would thereby put every sitting Senator on record about where they truly stand on climate science.

But with the Republican-controlled Senate tabling controversial amendments instead of voting on their merits, Democrats may not get the vote on climate science that they had hoped for. According to Politico’s Elana Schor, Senate Democrats will push an amendment this week from Sen. Brian Schatz which says that climate change “is real; is caused by humans; is urgent; and is solvable.”

Not everyone agrees, however, that an open amendment process means Senators are not allowed to table legislation.

“We did not block a vote,” Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), told National Journal. “Sen. Markey could not get 51 senators to vote for his amendment and so it was tabled. How is that blocking a vote?”

McConnell’s office did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.


A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized the climate amendment as “binding.” The amendment is a nonbinding resolution.

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