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U.S. election results could mean KXL approval, fast-track authority on TPP talks

In the midterm elections in the United States last night, the Republicans won the majority of seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives – for the first time in eight years.

You know that’s not a good thing when Harper’s employment minister Jason Kenney tweets, “Good news for Canadian jobs & economy. It looks like the new US Senate will have the 60+ votes needed to ensure that Keystone XL is approved.”

The Canadian Press reports, “Republicans have signalled, loudly, that a top priority will be pushing Obama to approve the [Keystone XL] pipeline. …They’ll probably even give [Obama] fast-track authority to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with 12 countries, including Canada — something the Democrats did not do, divided as they were on free trade; Canada has been waiting, reluctant to conclude trade negotiations until Obama gets fast-track from Congress.”

Republican Senator John Hoeven says, “I think you’re going to see us bring up energy legislation right away and Keystone will be on of the first things we pass.” And Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes, “We are looking for signals following the election that he will move on trade-promotion authority.”

Both outcomes are far from certain, but they are now back on the agenda.

How else may the Republicans want to use their power? “That’s the big question. The party is torn. Its more conservative faction will want to beat up on the president, attack his cherished health-care bill, gut the Environmental Protection Agency, and launch congressional investigations into every scandal of the last six years. If so, these may be ugly and unproductive times.”

Fortunately, the Republicans didn’t win the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, though they do have enough votes now to pass bills as long as Obama doesn’t veto those pieces of legislation. The Canadian Press article explains this swing happened, “Partly, because this year’s electoral map stunk for Democrats. Obama’s approval levels are mediocre nationally, at just over 40 per cent; but they’re especially low in the swing states that were up for re-election in the 2014 cycle… The roles could be reversed in 2016 — when Republicans will be defending seats in more liberal states, and the presidential-year election demographics will likely be younger, more multicultural and more Democratic.”

The next presidential election in the US takes place on November 8, 2016. The presumed front-runners in that election are Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Mitt Romney (who has said he will not run) and Jeb Bush for the Republicans.