One thing that most definitely will change with the impending GOP takeover of the Senate is the power to bring up or stall floor actions. So the moment that 51st seat slid into the GOP column on November 4, it became a certainty that legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would reach the Senate floor early in the next session.
So Harry Reid jumped the gun and decided to bring the thing up himself (in conjunction with simultaneous action in the House), reportedly as a favor to chief sponsor Mary Landrieu, who is struggling to survive a December 3 runoff in her fossil-fuel-energy-producing state.
What no one knows for sure is whether Democratic senators will eventually filibuster the bill, and what Barack Obama will say or do, though the White House dropped a pretty strong hint earlier today that the bill is veto-bait because jump-starts a decision the administration is still considering.
If there is a vote Senate-watchers will carefully watch the Democratic senators who are sticking around in January to see whether the bill could be filibuster-proofed if not veto-proofed when the new GOP senators take office. I doubt anything will change, so maybe it’s all a harmless gesture on behalf of Landrieu. But I do not blame Keystone XL opponents for worrying that in the end, when all the studying is done, the president chooses to make the project a bone thrown to fossil fuel fans in both parties as he’s fighting tooth and nail for EPA climate change regs.