The Senate will finally vote on the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday evening, and no one is absolutely sure that there are enough votes for the bill to pass. Even if the all-important 60th vote is found -- the current count has 59 'ayes' with one to go -- there is no guarantee that the president will sign the bill.
Not that the Republicans who have been crossing their fingers for a vote on the pipeline are too worried if the bills fails this year. They'll just bring it up for a vote when they have eight or nine more Senate seats next year -- over and over again if they need to -- just like they've promised the entire midterm campaign season.
If there is anything that Republicans in the House have shown about their majority style, it's that they have no qualms with voting on a bill over and over again to make a point.
And they've been waiting for a vote on Keystone for a long, long time. When dreams of the majority popped up in their head on the campaign trail, Keystone was almost always the first thing that came to mind.
So why, after months and months of putting off a vote, are Senate Democrats pushing to make Keystone XL potentially one of the last things they pass before ceding power to Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)?
To understand that, we have to visit Louisiana, a state where the pipeline has no plans to run through. At the same time, a Democratic senator is currently facing a Senate runoff where even her own party doesn't seem too confident she can pull it off. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is currently chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and she has tried to make her clout an enticing reason for voters to keep her in office.
An important spoiler, though: Landrieu will no longer be chairwoman of the energy committee next year, since the Democrats lost the majority. Hence, no more clout argument. The closest she could get to proving she's still got it is by making January 2015 come early, and making the Senate vote on a bill it would have already passed.
Why didn't the Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline before the election? See all those headlines above. Republicans wanted this bill to pass so, so badly. If the bill did go up for a vote earlier this year, they would had said their persistence was the reason for it. And when the White House vetoed it (as it likely would have), they would have yet another sin to add to their Obama burn book.
In other words, if it was going to go up for a vote anyway, they may as well try getting it out of the way this year. And if it somehow helps Landrieu in the process, all the better.
However, it isn't the most beautiful of plans. A co-sponsor of the already-passed House bill on Keystone XL happens to be Landrieu's Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). Both candidates will be able to brag about the passed legislation on the trail, if it makes it through the Senate.
Sponsor semantics have already caused some sniping in the Senate. As the Times-Picayune reported:
Senate Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the current minority leader who will become majority leader in January, referenced the legislation as "Congressman Cassidy's Keystone Jobs bill."
That produced a question from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "Sen. McConnell called the bill we're debating the Cassidy Keystone bill and I thought we're debating the Keystone XL Pipeline bill?" she asked Sen. Corey Booker, D-N.J., who was presiding over the Senate.
"The Senate is considering S. 2280," Booker responded.
"So," Boxer said, "We are considering the Hoeven-Landrieu bill. I just wanted that to be clear." She referenced Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Landrieu, the bill's two sponsors.
Your United States Congress, ladies and gentlemen.
Also, Landrieu's campaign is being drowned in ads from Cassidy's campaign and outside groups. Jeb Bush is going to fundraise with Cassidy in early December, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has canceled its big ad buy, which makes the Keystone vote feel a bit like a consolation prize.
If Landrieu is going to win, it seems like she'll need a lot more than just a Senate vote. Unless this is a Disney movie, in which case this plan makes so much sense.
In broader terms, the vote seems like the Democrats saying "You Only Have the Majority for One More Month" -- or what the kids call, "YOHMOMM."
Although the environmentalist wedge of the Democratic Party's base is not happy with the expedited Keystone XL vote, basically everyone else likely is, according to this Pew Research Center study (though support is dropping among Democrats). If the bill is going to pass anyway, they figure, why not take credit for the passage, as well as a bit of bipartisan pre-gaming to usher in the new majority?
And don't forget the many Senate Democrats who have decided not to support the Keystone XL bill, siding with the base instead of the chance of taking away the Republican Party's hopes and dreams. Not only is Tuesday's vote a classic case of "YOHMOMM," but Democrats are also trying to have their cake and eat it too.