What You Should Know: Keystone Edition

No, not that Keystone.
Not that one.

Approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline was shot down in the Senate.

The Keystone XL oil pipeline, proposed by a Canadian pipeline maker in 2008, has been one of the hot-button issues in American politics over the last several years.

Environmentalists have called approval of the pipeline, which could pump 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada through the United States, one of the biggest potential dangers to the climate, warning of increased carbon emissions and the potential of spills.  Conservatives, and even some typically liberal labor groups, have urged President Barack Obama to approve the pipeline’s construction, saying thousands of jobs would be created. (A claim, by the way, that’s mostly a load of crap.)

Torn between environmentalist and labor allies, what’s Obama’s response to all this? “Eh, I’ll get to it later. Trust me.”

Well, the Senate — namely, Democratic Louisiana Senator Desperate for Re-Election in Next Month’s Runoff Mary Landrieu — decided it’s had enough with the waiting and put up a vote on a bill approving construction of the pipeline yesterday.

It fell one vote short of the 60 needed to pass.

What does that mean in the short term? Not much. Landrieu faces an uphill battle for re-election, but that was already the case anyway. And it’s virtually guaranteed that next year’s Republican Senate will vote on a similar measure as soon as possible. Essentially, this fight has been put off for another few months — again.

Read more about the pipeline rejection here via Bloomberg.

The NSA will keep NSAing thanks to Senate Republicans.

From The New York Times:

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a sweeping overhaul of the once-secret National Security Agency program that collects records of Americans’ phone calls in bulk.

Democrats and a handful of Republicans who supported the measure failed to secure the 60 votes they needed to take up the legislation. The vote was 58 to 42 for consideration.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who drafted the bill, blamed what he said was fear-mongering by the bill’s opponents for its defeat. “Fomenting fear stifles serious debate and constructive solutions,” he said. “This nation deserves more than that.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, worked hard to defeat the bill, which had the support of the Obama administration and a coalition of technology companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” Mr. McConnell said before the vote, expressing the concerns of those who argued that the program was a vital tool in the fight against terrorism.

Healthcare.gov is working just fine this year, but the jury on Obamacare’s effectiveness will be out for a long while still.

More from The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn:

That ruckus you didn’t hear over the weekend was the sound of Obamacare online marketplaces not failing to work. Healthcare.gov went fully operational in the wee hours of early Saturday morning, without technical difficulties, and most of the state marketplaces did tooalthough California and Washington state had some glitches. By the time Saturday was over, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell reported, more than 1,000,000 people had shopped for coverage on healthcare.gov and more than 100,000 people had successfully completed applications to buy insurance.

That’s a nearly 1.7 million percent increase over last year’s day one performance, when just six people were able to complete an application on the non-functional website. Yay!

Of course, a merely functioning website shouldn’t be reason to celebrate. It’s what is supposed to happenand what should have happened last year, had the Obama Administration and several states handled their online launches properly. Going forward, the real test for the Affordable Care Act is whether it provides people with good options for affordable, comprehensive coverage. And if you glanced at the headlines over the weekend, you heard some very different versions of how the program is faring. There were reports that Obamacare premiums on the marketplaces were falling, rising slowly, and rising quickly relative to last year’s rates.

Which reports were right? All of them, actually.

Click here for more from Cohn. And click here for a nice explanation from economist Paul Krugman on how Obamacare’s individual mandate, the controversy of the moment, operates.

Snow. So. Much. Snow.

We actually don’t have it too bad here in Mount Pleasant. The west side of the state has been pounded with nearly a foot of snow, and this unseasonably cold weather has led to snow totals north of four feet near Buffalo, N.Y.

But still, no one likes snow. No one. That includes Michigan’s godawful roads. Brace yourselves for more potholes.

Click here to learn about how Isabella County is preparing for yet another awful winter (via The Morning Sun).

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