The controversial Keystone XL pipeline found its way into a complicated Congressional budget process late last week when Sen. Steve Daines introduced an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution signifying support for the project, which was effectively shut down last month when President Joe Biden retracted the cross-border permit his predecessor issued in 2017.

Though largely symbolic — budget resolutions are more about signalling priorities than making law — it was notable when the Daines measure, Amendment 678 to Continuing Resolution 5, narrowly passed with affirmative votes from just two Democratic senators: Montana’s Jon Tester and West Virginia lawmaker Joe Manchin. The amendment, which was aimed at “the improvement of relations between the United States and Canada with regard to the Keystone XL Pipeline,” passed 52-48 late Thursday evening. Many GOP lawmakers cheered the development.

But by the time senators wrapped up their marathon session, support for Keystone XL had been removed from Continuing Resolution 5 and associated amendments. In the early hours of Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, introduced an amendment consolidating many of the previously passed amendments and cleaning up some of the bill language. Daines’ Keystone XL amendment was not included in that measure, which contained a suite of unrelated items. Both Tester and Manchin voted in favor of the Schumer amendment, which narrowly passed 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.

The Daines camp said Tester and Manchin “flip-flopped” their position on Keystone XL, a project pursued by Canadian company TC Energy to transport tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

“In the wee hours of the morning, in the most DC swampy way possible, Senate Democrats flip-flopped on their support for American energy and union jobs by killing Senator Daines’ Keystone XL Pipeline amendment and another supporting fracking,” a Daines press release said.

Tester’s team countered that the Schumer amendment included several important provisions necessary to advance COVID-19 relief aid, and that Tester voted in favor of the only measure “directly on the Keystone pipeline” — Daines’ amendment. Tester’s office maintained that his support for the project “has remained steadfast for a decade.”

Now that Continuing Resolution 5 has passed the Senate, it will go to the House. Once the budget resolution has made it through both chambers, lawmakers can move forward with crafting the substance of a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Daines is now at work on another piece of legislation pertaining to the project, Senate Bill 171, a Bill to Authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline. It’s being co-sponsored by 14 GOP senators and has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

latest stories

Republican minority presses for election investigation in ‘court of public opinion’

On Tuesday, a group of Republican state lawmakers identifying themselves as an “ad hoc election integrity committee” convened at a hotel in downtown Helena to hear presentations and public comment questioning the security of Montana’s elections. One of those lawmakers, Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Stevensville, told Montana Free Press that the meeting, which was not a…

Missoula GOP aims to fact-check election fraud allegations

For nearly a year, Republican Rep. Brad Tschida’s allegations of discrepancies in Missoula County’s 2020 election have gone unresolved. Now, citing voters’ professions of waning faith, the Missoula County Republican Party has hatched a plan to determine if there’s any truth to his claims.

Billings native Amanda Eggert covers environmental issues for MTFP. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism who has written for Outside magazine and Outlaw Partners. At Outlaw Partners she led coverage for the biweekly newspaper Explore Big Sky. Contact Amanda at