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Keystone bill moves closer to Senate passage

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Prospects for a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline appeared to improve Wednesday after senators agreed to vote on a large batch of amendments to the controversial measure.

The votes are designed to satisfy a group of nine Democratic supporters of the pipeline -- who are needed to give the bill the 60 votes required to clear the Senate -- after they were angered last week when Republicans, who control the chamber, abruptly tried to end debate on the bill.

\"It is now time to get through the remaining amendments and vote up or down on passage of this bill before we leave for the week,\" said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the floor Wednesday. \"We expect the filibuster of good American jobs to soon come to an end.\"

Leadership aides in each party predicted that because of the additional amendments -- and Republicans say there could be another 12 amendment votes Thursday -- enough of those Democrats would now support the bill. However, aides to most of the individual senators contacted by CNN wouldn't confirm how their senators would eventually vote.

The Republican floor manager of the bill, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said \"serious and significant negotiations\" between her and her Democratic counterpart, Maria Cantwell of Washington, led to the agreement to vote on the 18 amendments scheduled Wednesday. Murkowski said by the time debate ends on Keystone there will have been about 50 votes on amendments. She called that number \"pretty considerable\" since in 2014 when the Democrats controlled the chamber \"there were just 15 amendments considered in the entire year.\"

But a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the votes didn't come about because of GOP generosity, rather, Adam Jentleson argued, Republicans buckled to pressure from Democrats to allow additional votes.

\"If Senator McConnell had his way none of these amendment votes would have happened,\" Jentleson said. \"But we are glad Senator McConnell reversed course and heeded Democrats' call for an open amendment process.\"

Either way, when the bill passes, President Barack Obama says he will veto it and it appears there are not 67 votes in the Senate to override the veto.

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