White House says it doesn’t need to threaten veto of Republican tax bill

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday refused to say whether President Obama would veto GOP legislation that would force a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing it’s irrelevant since the bill won’t pass the Senate. 

On Wednesday, Obama said he would reject “any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut.” 

Many interpreted the president’s statement as a veto threat, although he went on to say he did not “expect” he would need to veto the legislation. 

{mosads}”I expect they’re going to have enough sense over on Capitol Hill to do the people’s business, and not try to load it up with a bunch of politics,” Obama said in a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Asked Friday about the president’s remarks, Carney would not characterize Obama’s statement as a veto threat. 

“Reject means reject,” Carney said. 

“[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid has said this thing has no chance in the Senate, so there’s not a viable bill here over which to issue a veto threat,” Carney said. 

The White House has yet to issue an official statement of administration policy on the GOP package, which was unveiled on Friday. Veto threats are usually made in administration statements.   

Carney urged Republicans to stop fighting “old battles” and “playing politics” before the tax break expires at the end of the year. 

Obama’s threat helped turn the tide for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who was able to rally GOP support for a payroll package Thursday when he introduced a proposal tied to a provision forcing administrative action on the pipeline. 

A final decision on Keystone has been delayed until 2013.

Carney said Obama is willing to consider other proposals for paying for the payroll tax cut expansion, but that the overall package must “meet the standards the president has set.” Obama has proposed paying for the legislation by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The White House spokesman refused to speculate about what elements the final package might include, saying negotiations have a long way to go.

“There are some principles here that need to be observed,” he said. “One is it makes no sense to pass into law a payroll tax cut by middle-class and working Americans and pay for it in a way that hurts middle-class and working Americans. That’s just bad policy.”

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