You can almost feel a little bit sorry for Mary Landrieu, who has been fighting an uphill battle to retain her Senate seat in Louisiana. In the election earlier this month, voters refused to give the three-term incumbent a majority, forcing a runoff on Dec. 6. The oddsmakers don’t think much of her chances of winning.
Landrieu became convinced that her best chance to get the voters to return her to office was to win passage of the bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doing that would have been quite a trick. Barack Obama, playing up to leftist environmentalists in his party, had stalled the measure for the past six years by ordering study after study. Majority Leader Harry Reid had refused to allow the Senate to vote on any of the eight previous bills approving the measure that had been passed by the House.
Ah, but now things were different, or so Landrieu hoped. With her Senate seat on the line, Reid finally agreed to allow a vote to be taken on the measure, after the ninth iteration was approved overwhelmingly in the House last week. The vote there was 252-161.
In a ploy that must have sent shivers up Landrieu’s spine, the lead sponsor of the measure in the House was Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana who just happened to be the chief vote getter among Republicans to oppose her for the Senate seat. If the bill failed in the Senate, Landrieu would have egg all over her face. But if it passed, her Republican opponent would be able to claim much of the credit. Talk about a lose-lose proposition!
While Landrieu tried to convince the voters back home that her long tenure on the Senate Energy Committee made her invaluable to the state, there were two embarrassing disclosures that tarnished her claims. The first was that during her 18 years in the Senate, she had never introduced a significant piece of legislation. The second was that she had somehow failed to attend almost 70 percent of the meetings of the most important assignment she had in the Senate: the Energy Committee.
Even the media were asking just how valuable her service to Louisiana had been. A “yes” vote on Keystone would probably not be enough to save her job. But she was going to give it her best shot.
Turns out her best wasn’t enough. There were all sorts of maneuvering before the vote in the Senate, including what was described as “an impassioned plea” behind closed doors to her colleagues by Landrieu. But when the votes were counted two nights ago, the measure came up one vote short.
Thanks to Senate rules, 60 “aye” votes were required for passage. When the tally was taken early Tuesday evening, the measure got the votes of all 45 Republicans in the Senate. But only 14 Democrats defied their party’s leaders to give their approval. The measure failed by a vote of 59-41. Sorry, Mary.
So now what happens? There are two easy predictions:
First, Cassidy will defeat Landrieu in two weeks by a substantial amount, further increasing the Republican majority in the Senate.
Second, soon after the new members take their seats in January and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) replaces Harry Reid as Senate majority leader, a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline will be brought to the floor again. With nine new Republicans eager to grant their assent, the bill should easily win the 60 votes necessary for passage.
After a six-year wait, the measure approving the Keystone XL pipeline will finally land on the president’s desk. If Obama does veto it, as the wacko environmentalists have demanded, we will then find out if enough Democratic senators will defy their leadership and vote to override the president’s veto.
The battle hasn’t been won yet, folks. But in the past week, victory got closer.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.