In a little-noticed vote last week, Democrats Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) joined Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) in backing language to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline as part of a major transportation bill.
After completing a long floor debate over the National Defense Authorization Bill on May 18, the U.S. House considered two motions to instruct conference committee members working on a bill to authorize the Highway Trust Fund and other transportation programs.
Blue Dog Democrat John Barrow of Georgia offered the motion to insist on including the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the final version of the bill. Ben German reported for The Hill,
Friday’s motion, which is expected to pass, won’t tie the hands of negotiators in the House-Senate talks. But it’s nonetheless significant, because it will provide a snapshot of House support for the pipeline. […]
Sixty-nine House Democrats voted for their chamber’s transportation bill in April – a tally that Republicans cite frequently to claim substantial political support across the aisle for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline.
But some Democrats said they voted for the measure as a way to open House-Senate talks on reauthorizing popular transportation programs. Friday’s vote will provide a clearer picture of support for keeping the pipeline provision specifically.
Barrow’s motion passed easily by 261 votes to 152 (roll call). Latham and King were part of the nearly unanimous GOP majority supporting the motion, and Boswell and Loebsack were among the 26 Democrats who joined them.
Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) was absent for this vote, because he was visiting a wounded sailor from Cedar Falls at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He voiced strong support for the Keystone project in April after voting for the latest House version of the transportation funding bill. For that reason, I assume he would have backed Barrow’s motion to instruct conferees.
The House then took up a motion to instruct from Representative Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rahall’s motion directs conference committee members to include “Buy American” language to “help ensure that all steel, iron, and manufactured goods used to construct highway, transit, an rail projects are produced in the United States.” Rahall’s motion passed by 245 votes to 169, but with a very different majority. All but three of the House Democrats present supported the Buy American language, including Boswell and Loebsack. Fewer than a third of the GOP caucus joined them; Latham was one of the 69 Republican yes votes. (Latham is running for re-election against Boswell in the redrawn third Congressional district.) King opposed Rahall’s motion, as did most of the House Republicans.
Although Braley missed that vote, I have no doubt that he also would have supported the motion. He has repeatedly advocated for Buy American language in other legislation considered by the House.
Incidentally, Boswell is the only Iowan serving on the 47-member conference committee working on the transportation bill. I expect him to feature this work in his re-election campaign communications.
In February, Loebsack voted against a House Republican bill on offshore oil drilling that included Keystone language. Shortly thereafter, one of his GOP challengers in IA-02 claimed in a radio commercial, “Congressman Loebsack and Obama tightened the noose on oil production when they quashed the XL Pipeline.” Loebsack voted for the short-term transportation bill in April that contained the Keystone pipeline provision but not the broader language on offshore drilling.
Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I was pleased to see Rahall, who’s also a conferee, predict last week that the Keystone pipeline language won’t be in the final version of the transportation bill.