Democrats are trying to make this week’s U.S. Senate vote advancing the Keystone Pipeline an early issue in the 2016 U.S. Senate election, hitting Sen. Kelly Ayotte for voting in favor.
The state Democratic Party today posted an online petition urging Ayotte to “put local communities first” and reverse her position in the final voting. State party chair Raymond Buckley wrote in an email the current State Department review process would be bypassed if the legislation passes, and, “Kelly Ayotte’s vote to cut out the voices of local communities isn’t just bad for this project, it also sets a dangerous precedent for projects here in New Hampshire like Northern Pass, the Portland-Montreal pipeline, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
“While Kelly Ayotte likes to claim that she supports local input on projects here in New Hampshire, her vote to bypass the normal review process for the Keystone XL pipeline speaks louder than her words,” Buckley wrote.
The Senate on Monday voted 63-32 in favor of a procedural bill advancing the project to a final vote. It was a strong bipartisan vote, but still fell four votes shy of the necessary votes that would be needed to override an expected veto by President Obama.
Republicans reportedly hope to gain the additional votes through an open amendment process promised by new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Ayotte has long been supportive of legislation to facilitate construction of the pipeline while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has opposed such legislation, preferring to have the full federal review process continue.
The early attempt by the Democrats to pressure Ayotte comes as they are already setting their sights on trying to oust her from office in the 2016 general election. Although no Democrat has publicly expressed interest in running against her, some influential party members are hoping that Gov. Maggie Hassan runs. There has also been interest expressed by party members in Rep. Ann Kuster and former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Ayotte spokesman Liz Johnson responded:
“The Democrats’ claim that the bipartisan Keystone XL bill would ‘force’ the construction of the pipeline is flat out false, and the legislation does not impact the review of proposed projects in New Hampshire. Keystone XL has been under review for six years; has cleared environmental reviews by the Obama administration; enjoys support from Republicans, Democrats, manufacturers, and labor unions; and the affected states have supported it. This bipartisan bill would allow the project to advance and it does not alter applicable federal, state, and local processes regarding private property rights.”
Also responding to Buckley’s criticism of Ayotte, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn criticized Hassan.
“The Obama Administration’s State Department has already conducted a thorough study of the Keystone XL Pipeline project and gave it a favorable review,” she said. “Partisan politicians like President Obama and Governor Hassan want to stall this common sense project to please the radical environmentalist billionaires who bankroll their campaigns.
“Governor Hassan’s decision to accept tens of thousands of dollars in illegal political contributions from big labor unions that support Northern Pass proves she is focused on filling her campaign coffers instead of listening to the concerns voiced by North Country communities,” Horn said.
Ayotte, meanwhile, will hold town hall meetings tomorrow in Goffstown, Loudon and Barnstead, her office said.
Also today, Ayotte joined with Shaheen and Reps. Ann Kuster and Frank Guinta in asking the owners of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to hold an open approval process allowing Granite Staters “ample opportunity to express their views about the proposed pipeline, and work with all stakeholders to address the concerns of affected communities as the permitting process for the project continues.”