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Dem leaders push for unity in Keystone votes

By Laura Barron-Lopez

Senate Democrats are pushing a handful of amendments to a Keystone XL pipeline bill in what their leaders are portraying as their first opportunity to present a united front as the minority party.

In a letter to colleagues obtained by The Hill, Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center (DPCC) Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Vice-Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) called on Democrats to test the new Republican majority on their promise to hold an open amendment process for legislation.

“Consideration of this bill will provide us with the first opportunity to demonstrate that we will be united, energetic, and effective in offering amendments that create a clear contrast with the Republican majority,” the letter states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he would allow an open amendment process, which could drag out the debate over the pipeline bill for days or even weeks.

The legislation, which will be the first item voted on by the new Republican-controlled Senate, would approve construction of the $8 billion Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.

In the letter sent on Sunday to Democrats, Schumer and Stabenow recommend five different amendments that the “DPCC believes can be tied together by a common theme — that we are working hard to make the average American family better off while Republicans are helping narrow special interests.”

The list of amendments includes: a ban on the export of any oil shipped through the Keystone pipeline, ensuring the project would bring down U.S. energy prices; a requirement to use U.S.-produced iron, steel and manufactured goods to construct the pipeline; and an amendment requiring that for every job created by Keystone, an equal or greater amount is created through clean energy projects.

The DPCC also floated amendments that would increase spending for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to 2009 levels, giving priority to seniors and veterans; and one prohibiting states from permitting a foreign corporation to invoke eminent domain.

“Many Republicans have raised serious objections to the use of eminent domain by local American governments, and unless they believe the authority is less troubling when exercised by a foreign company they should vote for this amendment,” Schumer and Stabenow wrote.

The Democratic leaders also propose to “modestly raise royalty rates for Big Oil companies for offshore and onshore drilling and mining (for both coal and other minerals) on federal lands.”

They argued that the fee increase could pay for home solar rebates and boost to LIHEAP funding.

A number of the proposed amendments are expected to come up Wednesday during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the Keystone XL bill.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Schumer said even if Democrats are successful in tacking on the amendments, he will still urge President Obama to veto the bill.

“I don’t think — these amendments will make it better but certainly not good enough at this point in time — and I think there will be enough Democratic votes to sustain the president’s veto,” Schumer said.

Source: The Hill

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