Will the Keystone Pipeline Ever Be Built?

Senate Moves Keystone Pipeline Bill Forward

January 31, 2015—Hello, everybody, and thank you for tuning in. The Senate just had a recent vote on Keystone and the pro-Keystone Pipeline people won 62 to 36. It’s a very good victory. It required nine Democrats coming over, and yet it isn’t quite enough to override a veto.

My bet is that the President’s probably going to stick to his guns. He’s not going to back down now and not veto it. The big question is whether any more Democrats would come over. The only reason they might is for political benefit and thinking that it’s a dangerous vote to vote against the pipeline. But it looks like the president will veto this. The bill still has to go into conference and it has to be reconciled with the House vote, but I don’t think that’s as big a problem as facing the veto.

One thing about this whole issue is that I think the president has way too much power. The president shouldn’t be able to say, “Oh, there will be a pipeline or there won’t be a pipeline.”

We’ve drifted so far from how issues like this should be handled. It says very clearly in the Constitution that for international trade, the Congress is in charge, not the president. The president is not the dictator and yet they assume that and the President has this power. There are eight U.S. Federal agencies that deal with this: environmental agencies and labor organizations and they all have to reconcile this. So the president ends up with a lot of power. That’s one of our problems why this has been delayed so long. The president has too much power.

The Congress should, under constitutional circumstances, the Congress could pass a bill and say that it’s permissible for Canada and such-and-such state to work out an agreement to have a pipe come across the international border. It wouldn’t be any more complicated than that. There’s been pipes crossing the borders for years. There are hundreds of thousands of pipes laid in this country. Texas is literally swarming with pipelines and this has been blown up, I think for environmental reasons as much as anything.

During the debate the question of eminent domain came up. I’ve been very interested in that because I do not believe that for practical reasons or constitutional reasons that you should have eminent domain powers to serve the interests of private groups. I don’t think it was meant to do that. Unfortunately, the Kelo ruling by the Supreme Court said that it was constitutional to take property for the benefit of commercial interests.

When the debate came up, Cornyn, a Republican Senator from Texas, he puts the amendment up that says as long as you follow the constitution, then you can use eminent domain. He knew darn well that they could take all the land they wanted under this pretense. If you didn’t want eminent domain, you had to think of something else. Ironically, the Republicans are pushing this use of Eminent Domain and they’re pretending to be the big property ownership people.

When Cornyn’s amendment passed, the Democrats came up with a very reasonable amendment. They said that they could only take land from people who are willing sellers. That’s what freedom is all about. Democrats really don’t believe in a lot of that, but when the parties go back and forth it’s interesting that Republicans talk pretty bit stuff when they’re not in power and then when they are they violate these principles. The Democratic vote came up and all the Democrats voted for it. I would have voted for it.

Matter of fact, two republicans did vote for it: Kelly Ayotte and Rand Paul, because they knew that the principle was right and that people should protect property ownership. This would be a way of ironing out these problems of taking land unnecessarily and also for environmental reasons, the people who own the land and what not.

But there was another flaw in the bill, too, and that was that it protected and allowed this gas pipeline to be given to one particular company and that’s TransCanada. They probably would win the bid if you just legalized the options, but that would be different than saying, “This agreement is specifically for TransCanada.” You shouldn’t be writing legislation like that.

The real dilemma is, what do you do on final passage? I’ve been there. I like what they’re doing. I like where they’re moving, but I don’t like the way they’re doing it. How much should you give up on the principle of the constitution and property rights in order to nudge an economic project that needs to be nudged and would be beneficial?

My philosophy, is you vote against it or you abstain or do something, but don’t endorse the principle which is not politically correct. It’s not very practical and people don’t like that because there’s so much, when you can get 62 Senators to vote for this, you know it’s very, very popular. The major issue will be whether or not the President vetoes this bill and I suspect he will.