Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska

Murkowski Schedules Keystone XL Bill Markup Meeting

Gale Courey Toensing

The Senate Committee on Energy and Resources will hold a business meeting on Thursday, January 8, to markup an original bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, announced in a press release January 2 that she had called the meeting, which will take place at 10 a.m. in room 366 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Murkowski is the committee’s ranking member. The legislation to be considered at the January 8 meeting is identical to the bill reported favorably by the committee on June 18, 2014, Murkowski said. The business meeting will be webcast live on the energy panel’s website.

The $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline would carry oil from tar sands in Canada through Indian country and American states all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill with a 252–161 vote on November 14.

In calling the meeting, Murkowski makes good on a vow she made November 18 to bring the pipeline issue to the new Congress after the Senate failed that day to pass legislation that would have launched construction of the controversial project. “I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get the votes tonight to approve this important infrastructure project, but this isn’t over. The Keystone XL pipeline will be a top priority next year for the new majority,” Murkowski said in a press release that night.

Then, in what might be considered an astounding case of cognitive dissonance, the senator said, “There is little dispute about whether this pipeline is in the national interest. It will boost our economy, our security, and our competitiveness.”

There has been vigorous dispute of the claimed national interest that Keystone would serve and thousands of Native peoples, environmentalists and “ordinary” people have protested the project on environmental grounds since it first came to light six years ago. Additionally, there was an unforgettable incident of Keystone-related high drama in the Senate on the night the vote to begin pipeline construction fell one short of the 60 votes needed to pass.

Moments after the failed vote was announced, Greg Grey Cloud, an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe who was standing in the gallery of the Senate hall, began to sing an honor song to celebrate the defeat of the bill. People were talking and milling about on the Senate floor when Grey Cloud began to sing but, transfixed by the soulful sound of a human voice in full-throated song, all heads turned to find its source. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, ordered the sergeant-at-arms to “restore order” in the gallery and moments later Grey Cloud was hauled off and arrested, but a video of the incident went viral on the Internet.

According to the Senate’s roll call website Murkowski was in attendance at the Senate and was likely to have heard Grey Cloud’s song of celebration that the Keystone bill had been defeated.

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RELATED: Greg Grey Cloud: The Native Who Sang an Honor Song for the Senate (and Got Arrested for It)

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