Biden announces a likely doomed gas tax holiday
The White House is looking for ways to help lower pain at the pump. But congressional Democratic leaders already have dismissed the holiday idea.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called for suspending the federal gasoline tax, in his latest bid to curb rising fuel prices, though it stands almost no chance of passage in Congress.
Biden asked lawmakers to pass a three-month pause on the federal 18-cent-per-gallon levy, casting the proposal as a temporary measure that would provide relief to Americans without harming the road-building projects the tax traditionally funds.
The president also urged individual states to suspend their own gas taxes during that period, or seek ways to offer similar discounts from high prices at the pump. It’s a reflection of the intensifying political pressure on a White House combating near-record levels of inflation.
“A federal gas tax suspension alone won’t fix the problem we face,” a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday night. “But it will provide families a little breathing room.”
Biden’s gas tax holiday, however, has already been met with skepticism from senior Democrats in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have questioned whether the policy will lead to savings at the pump, rather than excess profits for gas companies. Democrats chose not to include it in their own bill aimed at lowering gas prices last month.
“I’ve not been a proponent of the gas tax,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a brief interview on Tuesday night. “I just don’t know that it gives much relief.”
White House officials began telegraphing their intentions over the weekend: Multiple Democrats received phone calls from aides in the legislative affairs office, informing them Biden was strongly considering the idea.
On Tuesday, Biden offered a preemptive defense of the proposal, arguing that while it would have some financial effect on the highway trust fund, “it’s not going to have an impact on major road construction and major repairs.”
The White House estimates that a three-month suspension of the tax would cost the trust fund $10 billion, which officials said could be offset through other unspecified revenues.
Biden’s pleas for Congress and states to take action on a gas holiday come as millions of Americans prepare for summertime driving, including over next month’s July Fourth weekend. But in reality, any federal gas holiday does not have broad Democratic support, let alone the multiple Republicans needed to pass the policy in the Senate.