This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

Republicans are poised not only to take power on Capitol Hill, but also to govern once they have it. Energy policy ranks high on the upcoming Republican agenda. And if the party succeeds in moving legislation through Congress, it will break nearly a half-decade of gridlock on energy priorities.

But the Senate majority won Tuesday is only worth so much. A collision between Republican leaders and the White House over the president's climate-change regulations is all-but inevitable. Hope for compromise elsewhere is not lost, however. Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Republicans will look for common ground with the president.

Once Republicans take the reins, they have to decide: Will they lead the Senate through two years of messaging and little else, or will they strive to meet in the middle with the White House in a bid to prove they can get things done?

Here's what to watch for when Republicans take control of the Senate.

Would President Obama Sign a Keystone Pipeline Bill?  

Until Tuesday, that question was little more than a political sideshow in the years-long battle over the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. But the election of several Republicans including Cory Gardner in Colorado and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia appear to have shored up at least 60 votes in the Senate for legislation to approve the project.

Now, Senate Republicans, joined by their House counterparts, plan to force Obama's hand. Mitch McConnell has promised a vote to approve Keystone when he takes over from Harry Reid as Senate majority leader.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota told National Journal on Tuesday night that a stand-alone bill to greenlight the project would come up "right away" once Republicans take the majority.

Obama has not left many clues as to where he stands. The president has said he will allow the pipeline to be built only if it does not significantly worsen carbon pollution. And in January, a State Department review of the project essentially concluded that it would not. Environmentalists contest the report, but that calculation could provide Obama political cover if he opts to sign legislation to approve Keystone.

The White House has leveled multiple veto threats against legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House to expedite Keystone construction. But each time, the administration has declined to weigh in on the merits of the project, saying instead that Congress should not interfere with State's review of border-crossing project. That review has by now been largely concluded, but Secretary of State John Kerry is still slated to make a final recommendation on the project.

Despite the potential pitfalls, high-ranking Republican Party members believe the president will feel pressure to OK the pipeline. "We will pass the Keystone pipeline," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday about a GOP Senate agenda. The RNC chief went on to say that the president will approve the bill, arguing that Obama will be "boxed in."

A majority of the public backs the Keystone project: 65 percent of Americans support Keystone XL's construction, according to an ABC/Washington Post survey released in March.

And Hoeven is also optimistic that Obama will approve Keystone legislation. "When you think about the bipartisan backing we have for this, the votes we just picked up, and jobs this will create, why wouldn't he say yes?" the senator told National Journal.

But green groups aren't ready to let Republicans have the last word. Environmentalists are planning to dial up the pressure on the White House to reject the project after the midterm dust has settled. "The basic strategy is to make sure that Keystone gets put on the front burner after this election," said Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications manager for the California-based environmental group 350.org.

If Obama does veto pro-Keystone legislation, Republicans are not likely to stop there. Hoeven said that after attempting to move the measure on its own, Senate leadership would likely attach approval legislation to a broader energy package or must-pass spending bills.

The President Is Likely to Veto Any Attempt to Weaken the Climate Rule 

Look for the new Republican majority to take dead aim at EPA rules to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants—the central pillar of the White House climate agenda for Obama's second term.

The president has made it crystal clear that safeguarding the climate rule is a top priority. Senate Republicans have made it equally clear that they plan to try and block the rules when they gain the majority.

Hoeven said that there may be enough Senate votes to deauthorize the regulations, but barring that, he said Senate Republicans will work to strip funding for the measure when it comes time to dole out dollars for the budget.

"We're going to fight hard on this, and I think the president is just going to have to concede," Hoeven said.

But the rule won't go down without a fight. John Podesta, the president's climate adviser, has said congressional attempts to undo the rule are doomed to failure. The president is virtually certain to veto legislation that would weaken or block the rule from taking effect. That could lead to a standoff between the administration and Senate Republicans, and potentially a government shutdown.

The climate rule isn't the only environmental initiative that the president plans to defend. Obama has signaled to environmentalists that he'll protect the administration's water-pollution regulations that are a major GOP target. "I'm not just going to stand with environmentalists. I am going to stand with sportsmen and conservationists against members of Congress who want to dismantle the Clean Water Act," he said at a League of Conservation Voters dinner over the summer.

Obama Might Sign Off On Other GOP Energy Priorities 

A Republican-led Senate will also be primed to push legislation boosting energy efficiency and fossil-fuel exports. And there might just be a chance to find patches of common ground here.

Conservatives seeking to broker bipartisan goodwill could approve a long-stalled bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The legislation failed to advance in the Senate in May, partly because Republicans were reluctant to hand Shaheen a win ahead of the midterms. As long as senators resist adding controversial amendments, Obama would almost certainly approve the measure.

Republicans are also likely to call for faster approval of liquefied-natural-gas exports, which Obama might also endorse. The administration supports LNG exports and the Energy Department has given preliminary or final approval to eight applications, though Republicans have criticized the pace as too slow. Last June, 46 House Democrats joined Republicans in support of a bill to speed up decisions on export applications, and the White House did not issue a veto threat.

Several high-profile Senate Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have also called for an end to the decades-old ban on crude-oil exports, though the issue faces pushback from some refiners. The White House has signaled at least muted interest in relaxing the 1970s-era restrictions. The Commerce Department recently approved two applications to export a minimally processed form of light crude oil, and the administration has said it is broadly reviewing export policy.

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who will become chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Alaska Dispatch on Tuesday that she'll push for oil and natural-gas exports.

Can Democrats Raise Their Game on Climate Change? 

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is fond of saying that the politics of climate change are increasingly turning GOP denial of climate science into a liability. He'll get a chance to test that proposition as Senate Republicans join their House counterparts in trying to roll back the EPA rules.

While the president's veto pen is a buffer against the assault on climate regulations, Obama could use political help. That's especially true at a time when he's looking to build a durable legacy on climate change that a future president, or a future Congress, won't dismantle, and could perhaps even build on. "The president will use his executive action to take some additional steps, but he's also going to continue to talk about this issue in a way that lays the groundwork for action by future presidents and future Congresses," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

But whether Senate Democrats can deliver a political counterpunch is an open question. Early this year, roughly two dozen Senate Democrats led by Whitehouse and Barbara Boxer said it was finally time to seize the political offensive on climate change. They formed a new "climate action task force." What came next was a mixed bag. The group grabbed headlines by holding the Senate floor all night in March to talk about climate change. Two of them—Bernie Sanders and Brian Schatz—made waves by putting pressure on the big networks to increase their sparse climate coverage on the Sunday talking-head shows.

But much of the rest of the year has been quiet, predictable, or both, and Democratic leaders never seriously tested the idea that climate could become a political winner, focusing instead on more tried-and-true fare like the minimum wage. And never mind a symbolic floor battle on climate. Boxer, who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, hasn't tried to steer her bill to place a fee on carbon emissions through the panel.

Something else to watch: Who will lead the Democrats on climate? Boxer has long been their top member on environmental issues by virtue of her committee role, but Whitehouse has been increasingly active in recent years. Sanders will surely talk a lot about climate change if he follows through on plans to mount an insurgent presidential bid from the left. But there's also newer blood. Both Schatz and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy have also been vocal in their calls for climate action.

Will Any 2016 Republican Hopefuls Take the Lead on Energy? 

A handful of 2016 GOP contenders could also step into the spotlight if a Republican-led Senate decides to make energy policy a priority.

Cruz, Rubio, and Sen. Rand Paul all lack a built-in leadership role in the Senate when it comes time to push an energy agenda, but all three have been active in staking out claims on other high-profile priorities and may find it to their advantage to do the same for energy.

Cruz has long touted the benefits that fossil fuels have brought to Texas. He has also actively worked to position himself as a leader on energy policy among Republican White House hopefuls. In February, Cruz delivered a speech to a conservative audience at the Heritage Foundation in which he laid out a sweeping energy agenda aimed at expanding oil and gas drilling. Cruz has also called for an end to the ban on crude-oil exports and wants to see Keystone XL built.

Rubio backs the pipeline too, and prescribes faster natural-gas pipeline approvals and an end to the crude export ban as part of a broader economic policy wish list. Paul has also expressed support for an end to the crude export ban and the Keystone pipeline, and has vowed to push for repeal of the climate rule as well.

Would President Obama Sign a Keystone Pipeline Bill?  

Until Tuesday, that question was little more than a political sideshow in the years-long battle over the controversial Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. But the election of several Republicans including Cory Gardner in Colorado and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia appear to have shored up at least 60 votes in the Senate for legislation to approve the project.

Now, Senate Republicans, joined by their House counterparts, plan to force Obama's hand. Mitch McConnell has promised a vote to approve Keystone when he takes over from Harry Reid as Senate majority leader.

Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota told National Journal on Tuesday night that a stand-alone bill to greenlight the project would come up "right away" once Republicans take the majority.

Obama has not left many clues as to where he stands. The president has said he will allow the pipeline to be built only if it does not significantly worsen carbon pollution. And in January, a State Department review of the project essentially concluded that it would not. Environmentalists contest the report, but that calculation could provide Obama political cover if he opts to sign legislation to approve Keystone.

The White House has leveled multiple veto threats against legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House to expedite Keystone construction. But each time, the administration has declined to weigh in on the merits of the project, saying instead that Congress should not interfere with State's review of border-crossing project. That review has by now been largely concluded, but Secretary of State John Kerry is still slated to make a final recommendation on the project.

Despite the potential pitfalls, high-ranking Republican Party members believe the president will feel pressure to OK the pipeline. "We will pass the Keystone pipeline," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday about a GOP Senate agenda. The RNC chief went on to say that the president will approve the bill, arguing that Obama will be "boxed in."

A majority of the public backs the Keystone project: 65 percent of Americans support Keystone XL's construction, according to an ABC/Washington Post survey released in March.

And Hoeven is also optimistic that Obama will approve Keystone legislation. "When you think about the bipartisan backing we have for this, the votes we just picked up, and jobs this will create, why wouldn't he say yes?" the senator told National Journal.

But green groups aren't ready to let Republicans have the last word. Environmentalists are planning to dial up the pressure on the White House to reject the project after the midterm dust has settled. "The basic strategy is to make sure that Keystone gets put on the front burner after this election," said Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications manager for the California-based environmental group 350.org.

If Obama does veto pro-Keystone legislation, Republicans are not likely to stop there. Hoeven said that after attempting to move the measure on its own, Senate leadership would likely attach approval legislation to a broader energy package or must-pass spending bills.

The President Is Likely to Veto Any Attempt to Weaken the Climate Rule 

Look for the new Republican majority to take dead aim at EPA rules to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants—the central pillar of the White House climate agenda for Obama's second term.

The president has made it crystal clear that safeguarding the climate rule is a top priority. Senate Republicans have made it equally clear that they plan to try and block the rules when they gain the majority.

Hoeven said that there may be enough Senate votes to deauthorize the regulations, but barring that, he said Senate Republicans will work to strip funding for the measure when it comes time to dole out dollars for the budget.

"We're going to fight hard on this, and I think the president is just going to have to concede," Hoeven said.

But the rule won't go down without a fight. John Podesta, the president's climate adviser, has said congressional attempts to undo the rule are doomed to failure. The president is virtually certain to veto legislation that would weaken or block the rule from taking effect. That could lead to a standoff between the administration and Senate Republicans, and potentially a government shutdown.

The climate rule isn't the only environmental initiative that the president plans to defend. Obama has signaled to environmentalists that he'll protect the administration's water-pollution regulations that are a major GOP target. "I'm not just going to stand with environmentalists. I am going to stand with sportsmen and conservationists against members of Congress who want to dismantle the Clean Water Act," he said at a League of Conservation Voters dinner over the summer.

Obama Might Sign Off On Other GOP Energy Priorities 

A Republican-led Senate will also be primed to push legislation boosting energy efficiency and fossil-fuel exports. And there might just be a chance to find patches of common ground here.

Conservatives seeking to broker bipartisan goodwill could approve a long-stalled bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The legislation failed to advance in the Senate in May, partly because Republicans were reluctant to hand Shaheen a win ahead of the midterms. As long as senators resist adding controversial amendments, Obama would almost certainly approve the measure.

Republicans are also likely to call for faster approval of liquefied-natural-gas exports, which Obama might also endorse. The administration supports LNG exports and the Energy Department has given preliminary or final approval to eight applications, though Republicans have criticized the pace as too slow. Last June, 46 House Democrats joined Republicans in support of a bill to speed up decisions on export applications, and the White House did not issue a veto threat.

Several high-profile Senate Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have also called for an end to the decades-old ban on crude-oil exports, though the issue faces pushback from some refiners. The White House has signaled at least muted interest in relaxing the 1970s-era restrictions. The Commerce Department recently approved two applications to export a minimally processed form of light crude oil, and the administration has said it is broadly reviewing export policy.

GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who will become chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Alaska Dispatch on Tuesday that she'll push for oil and natural-gas exports.

Can Democrats Raise Their Game on Climate Change? 

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is fond of saying that the politics of climate change are increasingly turning GOP denial of climate science into a liability. He'll get a chance to test that proposition as Senate Republicans join their House counterparts in trying to roll back the EPA rules.

While the president's veto pen is a buffer against the assault on climate regulations, Obama could use political help. That's especially true at a time when he's looking to build a durable legacy on climate change that a future president, or a future Congress, won't dismantle, and could perhaps even build on. "The president will use his executive action to take some additional steps, but he's also going to continue to talk about this issue in a way that lays the groundwork for action by future presidents and future Congresses," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

But whether Senate Democrats can deliver a political counterpunch is an open question. Early this year, roughly two dozen Senate Democrats led by Whitehouse and Barbara Boxer said it was finally time to seize the political offensive on climate change. They formed a new "climate action task force." What came next was a mixed bag. The group grabbed headlines by holding the Senate floor all night in March to talk about climate change. Two of them—Bernie Sanders and Brian Schatz—made waves by putting pressure on the big networks to increase their sparse climate coverage on the Sunday talking-head shows.

But much of the rest of the year has been quiet, predictable, or both, and Democratic leaders never seriously tested the idea that climate could become a political winner, focusing instead on more tried-and-true fare like the minimum wage. And never mind a symbolic floor battle on climate. Boxer, who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, hasn't tried to steer her bill to place a fee on carbon emissions through the panel.

Something else to watch: Who will lead the Democrats on climate? Boxer has long been their top member on environmental issues by virtue of her committee role, but Whitehouse has been increasingly active in recent years. Sanders will surely talk a lot about climate change if he follows through on plans to mount an insurgent presidential bid from the left. But there's also newer blood. Both Schatz and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy have also been vocal in their calls for climate action.

Will Any 2016 Republican Hopefuls Take the Lead on Energy? 

A handful of 2016 GOP contenders could also step into the spotlight if a Republican-led Senate decides to make energy policy a priority.

Cruz, Rubio, and Sen. Rand Paul all lack a built-in leadership role in the Senate when it comes time to push an energy agenda, but all three have been active in staking out claims on other high-profile priorities and may find it to their advantage to do the same for energy.

Cruz has long touted the benefits that fossil fuels have brought to Texas. He has also actively worked to position himself as a leader on energy policy among Republican White House hopefuls. In February, Cruz delivered a speech to a conservative audience at the Heritage Foundation in which he laid out a sweeping energy agenda aimed at expanding oil and gas drilling. Cruz has also called for an end to the ban on crude-oil exports and wants to see Keystone XL built.

Rubio backs the pipeline too, and prescribes faster natural-gas pipeline approvals and an end to the crude export ban as part of a broader economic policy wish list. Paul has also expressed support for an end to the crude export ban and the Keystone pipeline, and has vowed to push for repeal of the climate rule as well.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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