What's next after Keystone vote fails in Senate?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 18, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote the yeas were 59, the nays are 41.  The 60 vote threshold having not been achieved, the bill is not passed.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, R - LA: I did not ask Harry Reid's permission to do this and I did not inform Mitch McConnell. I took to the floor of the United States Senate and used the power that comes from being a senator representing one of the great states in this nation to force a debate on an issue that I felt strongly about.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: An issue that failed. Mary Landrieu failed to get 60 votes. She said she had them today. She was one vote shy about moving the Keystone XL pipeline across the finish line. So now what? Let's bring back our panel, syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard. OK, Steve.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, this is surely embarrassing for Mary Landrieu. She wanted to frame this election, this upcoming runoff as Mary Landrieu who can get things done in the Senate, who can help bring home the bacon, who is an advocate for the energy industry in Louisiana against Bill Cassidy who just won't have the swat as a new member. She can't make that argument anymore.

I don't think ultimately it matters much. I think it was unlikely that she was going to win whether this passed or whether it didn't pass. But what's interesting looking down the road is that this is likely I think to help Republicans try to reframe the relationship between Congress and the president in the new Congress. They want to make President Obama the obstructionist. It looks like they'll have, if the people vote the same way then that they voted today, they'll have at least 63 votes, you have Udall who becomes Cory Gardner. You have Rockefeller who becomes Shelly Moore Capito. Tom Harkin becomes Jodi Ernst. And Johnson becomes Mike Brown.

BAIER: So President Obama avoids the veto threat now, but he likely gets it in January.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: He gets it in January, or maybe he just approves that before this can happen. I don't know if he wants this to be the first showdown with the new Congress.

BAIER: After those comments in Australia?

LIASSON: The comments in Australia, he has never gone out and started to make the argument against the Keystone pipeline. The comments in Australia were about somebody else's oil coming through our property. It wasn't a very ringing argument about why the Keystone pipeline is bad. As a matter of fact, in the past he's acted as if he's rather neutral about it. And the State Department has not given him arguments to make on why it's bad.  They have given him arguments to make to approve it.

BAIER: If that's the case, Mara, why wait this long? Because the environmentalist movement and the election, is that it, Tom Steyer and the whole deal?

LIASSON: I think waiting this long was to avoid having a backlash from environmental voters and funders before elections. I mean, this has been going on for six years.

BAIER: So for the people, George, who say this is conspiratorial and he's trying to pay back Warren Buffett by leaving it on the rails, you think that's too Machiavellian?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I do. This does go against him in several ways. He says rightly that we as a nation should be spending much more on infrastructure. Keystone XL pipeline is infrastructure, pure infrastructure, supported by his great constituency beyond the environmentalists, which is organized labor in this country.

Furthermore, this now begins to go against the fundamental Obama pose that explains all the swooning about him in the media and academia, that is the pose of the calm, deliberative, weighing of evidence man.  Evidence doesn't enter into this anymore. This is a purely ideological opposition on his part that can be changed by nothing.

BAIER: Does it affect anything in Louisiana?

WILL: I think she was going to lose anyway, and she certainly will lose now.

BAIER: Mara, the Democrats had already pulled out the ads.

LIASSON: Yeah, the Democrats have pretty much given up on her, and the polls I have seen she's trailing by double digits. And I think that this will have very little effect on the fate of Mary Landrieu.

However, the president has indicated in the past that he considers his moves on the environment in terms of the EPA regulations, the deal with China, those climate change things are going to be his legacy. Keystone pipeline is not part of this. I'm surprised he hasn't approved Keystone while he was doing all of these other, bigger, more consequential moves on climate change. That would have been the politically adept thing to do.

HAYES: Look, I think the other big story is who's divided in Washington.  We have had years now from 2010 to 2014, years of stories, an obsession in the mainstream media of divisions among the Republicans. It's very clear from this vote and from all of the other things that are going on in Washington that Democrats are deeply divided on these issues, but also on many others.

I think you have Democrats on Capitol Hill taking a look around, looking at President Obama, looking up Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House and saying, we trusted this guy. He was going to lead us to the promised land. He was going to make activist governments safe for the country again. We were going to ride his coattails, this was going to be a realignment. And now look at where we are. And they're looking for issues that they can run on. They are looking for issues that they can talk about. President Obama has left them with nothing, and I don't think they have a ton of loyalty to him. It's going to be every man or every woman for him or himself in the next two years among Democrats.

WILL: George, do you expect a lot of stories on the civil war in the Democratic caucus?


WILL: I don't think so. But it is interesting to note that maybe they couldn't have saved Mary Landrieu, but they could have tried. And they didn't even try, Democratic senators.

BAIER: Next up, the latest with ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber when we come back.