Two Senate Democrats are facing criticism for voting to defy President Biden and overrule his decision to kill the Keystone XL oil pipeline — before later voting to reverse themselves.
Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia initially voted for a Republican amendment that would have put support for the pipeline in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that Democrats are drafting under budget reconciliation.
Their votes meant the amendment passed 52-48 just before midnight, threatening to reverse Biden’s decision last month to end construction of the pipeline from Canada, citing environmental concerns but costing thousands of jobs.
But before final passage, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced an amendment that removed the Keystone XL provision and two others, including an amendment from Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) that was approved 57-43 preemptively opposing any ban on fracking.
Tester and Manchin supported the Schumer amendment, undoing their earlier votes in favor of the pipeline.
Vice President Kamala Harris supported Democrats on Schumer’s amendment, which had tied 50-50, reflecting the even partisan division. Harris did not vote in most other 50-50 votes on amendment, which were considered to have failed.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) sponsored the Keystone pipeline amendment and hammered his flip-flopping colleagues. “Early this morning while the American people were asleep, Senate Democrats chose to flip flop on their support for my Keystone XL pipeline amendment, as well as @SenatorBraun’s amendment to support fracking,” Daines tweeted.
An aide to Daines said that Manchin and Tester acted “in the most DC swampy way possible.”
“They thought they could get away with it while the American people were asleep. Folks will know that when it came down to it, every single Senate Democrat chose to stand with the job-killing, Green New Deal radicals over American union jobs and blue-collar workers,” the aide said.
“For those representing Western states and for those that flip flopped on their support, you’ll have some explaining to do, not just on your opposition to the pipeline and fracking, but for your misleading attempt to pull a fast one to protect a partisan, far Left agenda.”
Manchin did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Tester spokeswoman Sarah Feldman denied that he flip-flopped on the Keystone pipeline. She said he supported the pro-pipeline amendment but then supported Schumer’s amendment removing it because reconciliation rules forbid non-germane items.
“Senator Tester has and continues to support the Keystone Pipeline, and any statement to the contrary is incorrect. He has consistently fought for the project for a decade, and just this week met with President Biden and directly reiterated his support for the pipeline’s construction in Montana,” Feldman said.
“In the only vote directly on the Keystone pipeline last night, Senator Tester joined his Republican colleagues to support it. Ultimately, last night’s votes were about passing COVID relief for Montana families, workers, and small businesses, and Senator Tester supported a final resolution that would allow that critical relief to move forward so we can get Montana’s economy back on track.”
Asked why Tester would vote for Schumer’s amendment given it removed the pipeline and pro-fracking language, she said, “Senator Tester voted for the substitute amendment—that’s the COVID relief bill without the non-germane amendments included—to allow the package to move forward.”