President Biden on Wednesday called for a three-month suspension of federal gas taxes in hopes of easing the pain of drivers at the pump, but the move was greeted with widespread skepticism.
The president, battling rising inflation, called on states to abolish their own gas taxes and reiterated his attacks on Big Oil for profiteering amid the war in Ukraine.
“I’m doing my job,” Biden said. “I want the Congress, the state and the industry to play their part too.”
Biden’s call would slash the 18.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on gas and the 24.4 cents-a-gallon federal tax on diesel fuel during the summer driving season.
Drivers will save about 3.6% at the pump if the savings are passed on to them, a relatively short break when prices average nationwide at a modest near-record price of $5 per gallon.
“It would provide some immediate relief to the families,” Biden said. “Just a little bit of breathing room as we continue to work to push prices down over the long term.”
The president noted that lawmakers supported sanctions against Russia and Ukraine despite the risk of inflation from energy and food shortages as a result.
“So to all the Republicans in Congress who are criticizing me for the high gas prices in America today: Are you saying now that you were wrong for supporting Ukraine?” Biden said. “Are you saying that we will have lower gas prices in America than Putin’s iron fist in Europe (Russian President Vladimir)? I don’t believe so.”
Biden’s push faces tough odds in Congress, where both the House and Senate must vote to suspend the tax.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mocked the gas tax holiday as an “ineffective stunt” in Wednesday’s floor speech. “This big new idea of ineffective administration is a foolish proposition which has already been rejected long ago by senior members of his own party,” he said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also less than enthusiastic, suggesting that oil companies may just pocket the cash and fail to pass the savings on to drivers.
“We’ll see where the consensus is for the president’s motion in the House and Senate,” Pelosi said.
The gas tax holiday is unlikely to pass through the Senate, with majority leader Chuck Schumer (D.N.Y) saying Democrats on his bill to crack down on oil companies that “manipulate the market” for higher prices and profits. will focus. “We’re going to focus on that issue,” Schumer said.
Biden’s previous efforts to cut gas prices – including the release of oil from the US Strategic Reserve and greater ethanol blending this summer – have done little to produce savings at the pump.
Administration officials said the $10 billion cost of the gas tax holiday would be paid for and the Highway Trust Fund would be kept full, even though gas taxes make up a huge source of revenue for the fund. The officials did not specify any new revenue source.
The president also called on energy companies to accept lower profit margins to increase oil production and refining capacity for petrol.
This has raised tensions with oil producers as Biden considers the companies to be making “more money than God.” This set off a chain of events in which the head of Chevron, Michael Wirth, sent a letter to the White House, noting that the administration “has tried to largely criticize, and at times condemn our industry.” Is.”
When asked about the letter, Biden said of Wirth: “He’s mildly sensitive. I didn’t know they would hurt their feelings so soon.”
news with wire services