Boehner faintly praises highway bill, vows more Keystone efforts

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offered limited praise for the sweeping transportation bill that President Obama signed Friday and pledged to continue pushing for authorization of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, which was omitted from the legislation.

He lauded provisions in the House-Senate compromise that pare back environmental reviews for some projects – an element of the bill that has dismayed green activists – as well as the inclusion of the deal on student loan rates and other elements.

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“While not perfect, this bipartisan agreement has important reforms to ensure taxpayer dollars go toward high-priority infrastructure projects, not bike paths and beautification. It cuts red tape, gives states more flexibility, and – consistent with the House ban – has no earmarks whatsoever. And with half of recent college graduates jobless or underemployed, the bill also stops student loan rates from doubling,” said Boehner, who did not attend Friday’s bill-signing at the White House.

Boehner’s qualified praise, released on Friday evening, reflects the political concessions Republicans made in the deal.

The plan does not include GOP-backed proposals to require a cross-border permit for the proposed Keystone pipeline, which would bring crude from Canadian oil sands projects to Gulf coast refineries.

Also left on the cutting room floor: GOP-backed provisions to restrict federal regulation of coal ash, which is a waste product from coal-fired power plants, and proposals to fund highway and transportation programs with revenues from expanded oil-and-gas drilling.

Boehner used Friday’s tepid report on job growth in June to continue calling for federal approval of Keystone, a project that the Obama administration plans to review into 2013.

“Unfortunately, President Obama and Senate Democrats continue to block the popular Keystone XL energy project and the tens of thousands of jobs it would create. As today’s jobs report showed, we can’t afford missed opportunities like this. The House has voted to move Keystone forward and Republicans are going to keep fighting for this common-sense proposal,” Boehner said.