Tom Cotton and Mark Pryor Both Argue For Keystone But Still Don't Get Along

May 12, 2014

Both Democratic Senator Mark Pryor and his challenger for the office Republican Representative Tom Cotton, stood side by side at a plant in Little Rock Monday, where pipeline is being made for the Keystone XL, to call on the President to approve the project. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman reports.

In the midst of a contentious and at times very divisive campaign for US Senate both Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton stood together, shook hands, and advocated for a shared cause: the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. But any sign of partnership ended as soon as the tour of Welspun Tubular began.

Pryor and Cotton took separate simultaneous tours of the same facility, walking non-intersecting routes. Despite the distance, both lawmakers had similar things to say about approving the pipeline after the tours ended. Here’s Tom Cotton…

“The Keystone pipeline quite simply means jobs and growth and opportunity for Arkansas’s economy, hundreds of jobs here in Little Rock, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment,” said Cotton.

…and Mark Pryor…

“It’s going create American jobs, it’s going to lessen our dependence on overseas oil where we’ll be paying billions and millions of dollars every year to unfriendly countries,” said Pryor.

The two candidates rarely looked at each other and never exchanged more than a few words throughout the two hour plus tour but frequent references were made by industry representatives to the bi-partisanship of the event. Speaking after prepared remarks, Tom Cotton doubted Pryor’s sincerity and didn’t attribute any bi-partisanship points to the Senator.

“If he can’t get it to the floor for a vote how is he a voice for Arkansas in the Senate? If he and Democrats like this who’ve claimed they support it would press Harry Reid and press the President to actually have a vote on the Senate floor, they would pass the legislation that we’ve passed in the House and we’d be building this pipeline,” said Cotton.

Pryor however, argued he is pushing for action from those Democrats he disagrees with.

“From the very beginning I’ve been in a different place than where the President is on this. I’ve worked in a bi-partisan way to try to get this done in the Senate. Hopefully, we hope we’re going to have votes on that this week. If we are not able to do it this week hopefully we’ll have some votes on Keystone XL very soon in Washington,” said Pryor.

Officials with Welspun said over 700 miles of pipeline for the project has already been produced with much of it sitting idle on over 80 acres waiting for approval of the project. Welspun President David Delie said Keystone’s operator TransCanada has already purchased the pipe but if its route were to be approved even more work and workers, between 50 and 200 would be needed on-site.

“Our large diameter facility unfortunately right now is shut down due to lack of orders. One of the problems is the Keystone XL pipeline not being approved. If that pipeline was approved we’d be running this facility right now,” said Delie.

Most polling shows the majority of Americans support the pipeline’s construction but vigorous objections from environmental organizations have endured for nearly half a decade and have managed to help stall construction. Opponents argue the project will contribute to climate change, threaten one of the nation’s largest aquifer’s – the Ogallala - running through the plains states, result in little change to the price of fuel, and will only lead to a temporary spike in jobs.

The President is not expected to make a decision on the pipeline’s approval until after the November mid-term elections. 

Further Notes:

Pryor reached out to Cotton for the handshake.

Pryor and Representative Tim Griffin both were actively engaging with onlookers and tour guides while Cotton mostly remained silent and to himself.

Cotton said he does not support the impeachment of Judge Chris Piazza in the wake of his ruling on gay marriage. At least one state legislator who toured the plant with Cotton supports impeaching Piazza as well as former Governor and potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Both Pryor, Cotton, and industry association Consumer Energy Alliance claimed Keystone XL would stabilized fuel prices in the U.S. None had answers for what that price might be or the duration of the stabilizing effect.