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Senate Democrats Could Push Keystone Vote to Help Mary Landrieu

Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, faces a run-off election to a Republican and could benefit from being seen to vote for approval of the pipeline.

Senate Democrats may push for a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline in the coming weeks, according to Democratic aides, a move that could help Sen Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in her run-off race against Rep Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

While no decisions have been made to go forward with the plan, the strategy would see a vote on the controversial pipeline before the Republican majority is sworn-in, and would allow Landrieu, and other moderate Democrats, to vote in support of approving it. Republicans, who have supported approval of the pipeline since its inception, have said a vote on its approval would be one of their first priorities in the 114th Congress.

Landrieu is heading into a Dec. 6 run-off with Cassidy with the momentum on the Republican's side. Not only did the majority of Louisianans vote for the two Republican candidates in the general election, but the DSCC announce last week it had pulled its ad buy for Landrieu during the period of the run-off.

Landrieu has cited her support for the Keystone pipeline as a difference between her and President Obama, urging the administration to approve it for months. President Obama has urged patience on the pipeline, and has delayed the decision to approve it until further review is complete.

But if Senate Democrats decided to push a vote on Keystone it wouldn't necessarily be as simple as bringing it to the floor. Senior Democratic aides say they would need Republican support to bring up a solo Keystone bill, and that may not happen unless Republicans also get votes on other environmentally-related amendments. The measure could also see a vote as an amendment to bills that need to pass during the lame duck, such as the National Defense Authorization Act.

Discussions on whether to take this approach are expected in the coming days. Senate Democrats will hold leadership elections on Thursday, but the top leadership structure is expected to stay the same.