Carney backs off veto threat for payroll tax bill combined with pipeline approval

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Jay Carney today backed away from a threat to veto a pending payroll tax-cut extension if it also approves construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and he ramped up claims that GOP policies are driven by personal dislike of the president.

President Barack Obama said on Dec. 8 that he would reject a combined bill, but Carney added Friday that “there’s not a bill there over which to issue a veto threat.”

Pressed by reporters, Carney said “’reject’ means ‘reject’; it means the thing is rejection-worthy.
” Instead of a veto threat, Carney argued that the GOP’s “extraneous, ideological” proposal could delay legislators’ approval of a one-year Social Security tax cut for 160 million Americans.

The rhetorical retreat will likely embolden GOP legislators who support the pipeline, and make it more likely that Democratic Senators will have to shoulder the task of stopping its construction, which could bring 20,000 jobs and cheaper gasoline to the United States.

However, the pipeline is strongly opposed by environmental groups. The groups’ leaders say their members will be less likely to support Obama’s reelection campaign if he approves the pipeline. Labor unions also support the pipeline project.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has already promised to block approval.

But Carney also repeated Obama’s Dec. 8 claim that GOP support for the XL pipeline is based on their personal animus for the president.

White House officials frequently gauge the views of the public, and roll out new messages when they seen an advantage. This new politics-as-pique message may be an effort to win public support for Obama by portraying GOP policies are juvenile insults towards a likable president.

“Why do the Republicans think they’re doing President Obama a favor by going along with payroll tax cut?” Carney said. “Maybe Obama should come and say I’m against investments in education, against investments in infrastructure … because maybe then Republicans would support such things,” he said in a scripted remark.

While the GOP coalition is united in support of the pipeline, Obama’s coalition is split.

Republican legislators are enthusiastically pushing to combine extension of a payroll tax cut with a requirement that the XL pipeline be approved.

The pipeline would carry Canadian oil to the U.S. refineries and consumers. Construction will help curb gasoline prices for U.S. drivers.

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