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Senate narrowly votes down approval of Keystone XL pipeline

The U.S. Senate on Nov. 18 voted down a bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

But the measure could come back with a new Congress — one with a GOP majority in both the House and the Senate.

The massive and long-delayed pipeline was not expected to come up in the lame-duck session until Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana found herself in a Dec. 6 runoff to hold onto her seat. She's facing the Republican who helped pass a pipeline bill in the House.

The Senate vote took place at about 6 p.m. EST. And it was expected to be extremely close.

Republicans favor the project, arguing that it will help to create jobs and reduce energy dependency on foreign oil.

Democrats largely oppose the project, arguing it will not create jobs but it will result in moving dirty oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, during her floor speech on Nov. 18, referred to the project as the "Keystone Extra Lethal Pipeline."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president didn't support the bill voted upon by the Senate and that the issue should be "determined through the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate projects like this."

The Senate vote was 59-41. The bill needed 60 votes to pass. All the Republicans voted for the bill.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, voted against the pipeline bill.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, voted for the legislation.

After the vote was announced, the gallery erupted with cheers and a chant.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said, "We applaud the senators who stood up for the health of our families and our climate by fighting back against this big polluter-funded sideshow. There’s no good reason the Senate should have wasted all this time on yet another meaningless push for Keystone XL. Since day one, the decision on the pipeline has belonged to President Obama, and he has repeatedly said he will reject this pipeline if it contributes to the climate crisis. As there is no doubt that it does, we remain confident that is precisely what he’ll do."

Elijah Zarlin, senior campaign manager for the progressive group CREDO, said. “All this Senate vote proves is that a handful of Democrats are standing on the wrong side of history to join Mary Landrieu in a last ditch effort to protect the oil industry's profits." 

“The bill would have turned Congress into a permitting authority, overriding environmental law, and giving a green light to a pipeline project that would worsen climate change and threaten water quality," said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The Senate did the right thing to reject the misguided bill, and now the president should do the right thing and reject the pipeline.”

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