UPDATE 4-Keystone U.S. Senate vote hangs in balance after Obama remarks

Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:02pm EST
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(Adds Hoeven quote in paragraph 6)

By Timothy Gardner and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON Nov 17 (Reuters) - Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. Senate scrambled on Monday to gather one last vote to pass a bill that authorizes the project that would help send Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf, a task that became harder after President Barack Obama made his toughest comments yet on the topic.

Momentum appeared to be going against the pipeline as Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia told reporters late on Monday that he would vote against it on Tuesday.

At the same time, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan also proclaimed to reporters, "I'm voting no," and independent Senator Angus King of Maine said he "probably" would vote against approving the oil pipeline. King added that he would make his final decision during the vote "when they get to the Ks" in the roll-call.

The three senators have been heavily lobbied by pipeline backers. Rockefeller and Levin are retiring at year's end and some had thought they could be persuaded to vote yes in a vote that appears to be going down to the wire on Tuesday.

Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota. She faces a runoff for another six-year term next month and has been working hard to gather the 60th vote needed to pass a bill that the House of Representatives approved on Friday.

Late on Monday Hoeven told reporters: "We've got 59 announced (supporters). I think we'll get there but I don't know for sure until we have the vote." Hoeven said there were still some "maybes" but he would not elaborate.

The Senate is expected to vote as early as 6:15 p.m. ET (2315 GMT) on Tuesday on the TransCanada Corp pipeline, which would transport more than 800,000 barrels per day of oil.   Continued...