Carney stops short of veto threat on Keystone pipeline

The White House has not made clear what it means for President Obama to “reject” a bill without vetoing it.

The House passed payroll tax cut legislation earlier this week that requires a State Department permit for TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline within 60 days unless the president declares that the project isn’t in the national interest.

The White House did threaten to veto the overall House package to extend the payroll tax cut over various provisions the administration finds objectionable.

The Statement of Administration Policy that threatened the veto did not mention Keystone, but warned against trying to score “political points” with the bill. More on that here.

The Obama administration has delayed a permit decision until 2013, and has warned that imposing the faster timeline on the State Department would force it to reject the pipeline to bring crude from Alberta’s oil sands projects to Gulf Coast refineries.

Carney called the GOP efforts to spur the pipeline, which has support from some centrist Democrats, inappropriate.

“It certainly is beyond the purview of Congress to speed up a review process that is essential to making sure that all criteria here, all factors are weighed when a decision is made whether to grant a permit or not,” Carney said, calling the GOP’s hoped-for timeline “based on politics, and not reality, or certainly not sound judgment.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the pipeline earlier Thursday.

“I believe there is a bipartisan majority in the United States Senate for the Keystone pipeline,” he said.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has called a payroll tax cut bill with the pipeline provisions dead on arrival in the Senate.

Pipeline advocates, who include major business groups and several unions, say the project will expand U.S. energy security and create scores of jobs.

Environmentalists strongly oppose it due to greenhouse gas emissions, forest damage from the massive oil sands projects, concerns about spills and other factors.