Senate to Vote On Campaign Finance, Alaska Wilderness Amendments Wednesday

Eighteen votes teed up as Keystone moves closer to finish line

As a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline creeps closer to the finish line, the Senate will consider language on liquefied natural gas exports, campaign finance reform, and climate change as part of a massive vote series.

The Senate will vote on 18 amendments Wednesday starting at 2:30 p.m. as party leaders push to finish up the bill—which would approve the controversial Alberta-to-Gulf-Coast oil sands pipeline—before the end of the week.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has an amendment due up that would require campaign finance disclosures from companies benefiting from the Alberta oil sands.

In a floor speech Tuesday, Whitehouse made it clear that the amendment was designed to get more disclosures about the flood of so-called dark money spending from the Koch Brothers and others in the fossil-fuel industry.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski is targeting the White House's just-announced decision to manage more than 12 million acres of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, shutting the coastal plain off from oil and gas development.

Murkowski has slammed the action as a gut punch that will stifle her state's economic development. Her amendment would block the federal government from managing an area as wilderness if Congress doesn't designate it as such within a year. Speaking on the Senate floor, Murkowski said the amendment wasn't just about ANWR but was about freeing up all areas that were designated by the federal government that become "de facto wilderness areas" while Congress deliberates.

The Senate is also set to vote on a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would expedite the approval of liquefied natural gas export facilities, which comes amid separate congressional action on the issue. The House is set to vote as early as Wednesday on a bill from Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, speeding up LNG exports, while the Senate Energy Committee will hold a hearing on a bipartisan bill with different requirements that Cruz's bill.

Murkowski told reporters Tuesday that she liked to legislate through the committee process and looked forward to discussing the bill with administration witnesses. "Sen. Cruz has his bill out there; what this does is probably put people in the mindset of where they will land on the issue of LNG exports," she said.

Cruz on Tuesday yanked a controversial amendment that would lift the ban on crude-oil exports.

Democrats will also take another shot at trapping the GOP on global warming. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., has a resolution that would put the Senate on record as saying that "climate change is already impacting the safety and reliability of the critical infrastructure systems," and that the federal government should quantify the economic value of the physical risks of climate change.

It's not the end of the line for the Keystone bill. There are still several amendments pending and there's no agreement in place that would bring them up and move to final passage. Sponsors and party leaders have expressed a desire to move off the bill before the end of the week. President Obama has threatened to veto it.