WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate began debate Tuesday on a bill that supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline want to use as a vehicle to authorize immediate construction of the proposed pipeline from Canada to the United States.
The 79-20 vote to limit debate on an energy efficiency bill lost much of its significance as the two parties continued to argue over what amendments to allow on the measure, including the pipeline project.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, denied a Republican request for an amendment on the pipeline, but said he is open to a stand-alone vote on a pipeline bill later.
Reid accused Republicans of trying to block the energy bill, which has bipartisan support. Republicans said Reid was backing away from a promise to allow a vote on Keystone.
"Senate Republicans keep changing their requests," Reid said, noting that some Republicans first asked for a "sense of the Senate" resolution on Keystone and then later called for a binding vote.
"It seems like this is nothing but a game of diversion and obstruction to many Senate Republicans," Reid said on the Senate floor. "But it's not a game. Every time a group of Republicans feigns interest in bipartisanship, only to scramble away at the last moment, it is part of a calculated political scheme."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, called Reid's claim "laughable," and said all that Senate Republicans seek is a full and open debate on energy policy.
"The American people have waited seven long years for a serious energy debate in the Democrat-run Senate," McConnell said, noting that the Senate has not approved a major energy bill since 20007.
In addition to Keystone, Republican senators have prepared a host of amendments to the energy bill, including one that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Lawmakers from both parties also support a measure to speed approval of terminals to export liquefied natural gas.
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