The politics of the Keystone pipeline: The La. Senate race comes to Washington

The Louisiana Senate race has come to Washington.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., are vying in the December 6 runoff for a U.S. Senate seat, since neither won a majority last week. Wednesday, they staked out strong positions on approving the Keystone XL pipeline, positions that could lead to congressional votes this week.

Landrieu urged her Senate colleagues to approve the project, saying it would probably pass easily. The pipeline is estimated to have 57 votes in the current Senate, a number likely to increase next year. No decision has been made on a Senate vote.

Cassidy, though, also backs the pipeline, and is sponsoring legislation that the House of Representatives is expected to consider Thursday.

President Barack Obama wants the State Department to finish its review of the project before making a decision. Senate Democratic leaders have blocked votes on the pipeline, which would move oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

Now they have a political dilemma – should they go ahead with a vote that could help Landrieu, who badly needs a boost to win re-election?