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Senate Democrats' 'Hell No' Caucus Ignored Landrieu, Defeated Keystone

Wednesday, 19 November 2014 08:19 AM

In a forewarning of the potential political showdowns in the Senate next year, a powerful progressive movement in the Democratic Party is taking credit for the defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Keystone XL pipeline bill.

Dubbed the “hell no” caucus by Politico, they snubbed the Louisiana Democrat’s desperate plea during lunch on Tuesday to back the controversial legislation co-sponsored by North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven.

Landrieu had hoped that liberal Democrats would support the pipeline despite environmental concerns, which likely would have helped her to win over independent voters in her bitter Dec. 6 runoff election against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.

But Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska, who will be gone in January, shunned her appeal, along with other liberals senators like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and Sheldon Whitehouse, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren leading the charge on messaging, Politico reported.

“I will use whatever tools I have as a senator to protect the environment,” said Merkley, an Oregon Democrat.

And Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is seen as the most liberal person in the Senate, said the idea that people are supporting a project that will “significantly increase carbon emissions is totally insane.”

He said, “It’s an absurd proposal. Obviously, I will disagree with Republicans on virtually every issue, but on this issue of climate change, the Republican position is an embarrassment to the American people.”

“They actually want to tear down environmental protection and regulation in every public comment that I’ve heard a Republican make,” said Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat.

According to Politico, when the GOP comes into power next year, they will face a liberal caucus every bit as determined to block Republican policies, including Keystone XL, as tea party conservatives were at pushing back against the Democrats.

“Clearly, there’s a challenge coming, and we have to be prepared to meet that challenge,” said Whitehouse. “With respect to climate, you can’t just go back and fix it and make it right with whoever was hurt by some stupid policy.”

The “hell no caucus” is already gearing up for challenges with the GOP over campaign finance law, consumer protections and women’s health care, according to the political news website.

“Social Security and Medicare, the environment, education - there are going to be lots of opportunities for them to show their true colors,” said Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico.

And Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who voted against Sen. Harry Reid as Democratic leader, said, “I’m not going to be part of sitting down if the Republicans are trying to roll through legislation that I fundamentally disagree.

“I’m not going to let them defund Planned Parenthood, for example. They might try to do this as an appeasement to their base.”

Another progressive Democrat, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, says that the battle of the Keystone XL pipeline is just a precursor to what a GOP-controlled Senate faces next year.

“On climate, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to find a middle ground given the rhetoric we’ve heard during the campaign. So it’s very likely to be a fight,” Schatz told Politico.

“But it’s very likely that we legislatively play everything to a tie. Then, in the next election cycle, the voters can decide whether they want to move backwards or forward.”

Landrieu’s Keystone pipeline legislation was one vote shy of the 60 needed to pass, and Republicans believe that, with the help of centrist Democrats, they will have enough votes to pass the measure when they run the Senate in 2015, Politico said. But the “hell no caucus” is not going to make their life easy.

“The best news about a Republican majority in the Senate is that the Republican minority is now gone,” Whitehouse added. “They were just a god-awful minority.”

Related Stories:

Sen. Ron Johnson Slams Democrats' Turnabout on Keystone Pipeline

Rob Maness: Louisianans Like Keystone, But Not Landrieu

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In a forewarning of the potential political showdowns in the Senate next year, a powerful progressive movement in the Democratic Party is taking credit for the defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu's Keystone XL pipeline bill. Dubbed the "hell no" caucus by Politico, they snubbed...
democrats, liberal, senate, landrieu
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 08:19 AM
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