As John noted yesterday, Senate Democrats have agreed, after six long years, to hold a vote on the Keystone Pipeline. They hope by doing so to save Mary Landrieu, who is the clear underdog in the Louisiana Senate runoff election against Bill Cassidy.
The move will also appeal to Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia Senator whom Republicans would love to add to their caucus. Harry Reid’s unwillingness to permit a vote on the pipeline is near the top of Manchin’s list of grievances against his caucus. Yesterday, he described the pipeline as “a huge windfall for all of us,” adding that “I can’t for the life of me understand why we haven’t to date been able to move this piece of legislation forward.”
The day Manchin figures this out is the day he switches parties.
Landrieu is grateful, I’m sure, that the Democrats are finally permitting a vote on pipeline legislation. But she must believe that this is too little and probably too late.
Perhaps this belief helps explain her encounter yesterday with Chuck Schumer, as reported by Ed O’Keefe in the Washington Post:
Before her remarks, Landrieu was spotted riding the escalator alone up from the Senate trains that carry lawmakers between their offices and the Capitol, toward a row of elevators. She was stone-faced and declined to answer questions from reporters. Once she reached the top level and stepped off, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of his party’s top campaign strategists, walked over.
Smiling, he asked Landrieu to step aside for a private conversation. She shook her head and moved briskly toward the elevator. As she did, she pointed to her phone, saying she had a call. Schumer paused for a moment as she moved away. His smile dropped, and he turned to follow her. “Mary, Mary,” he said, a few steps behind, asking her to speak with him. When she kept moving and ducked into an elevator, he hustled and jumped in to join her as the doors closed.
It was almost as if Schumer had spotted a television camera.
Republicans, meanwhile, are doing what they can to help Cassidy put a strong foot forward on energy issues. He will be sponsoring the pipeline legislation in the House, as Landrieu is doing in the Senate. In addition, Mitch McConnell has declared that Cassidy will have a seat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if he wins the run-off.
McConnell’s decision is opportunistic, but unlike Reid’s, not hypocritical. As Dana Milbank says, “if it takes a pipeline to transport Mary Landrieu back to the Senate, Democrats [are] willing to build it.”