President Joe Biden on Wednesday asked members of Congress to suspend federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the next 90 days to help Americans deal with historic fuel prices.
“By suspending the 18-cent gas tax, federal gas tax for the next 90 days, we can bring down the price of gas and give families just a little bit of relief,” Biden said in a speech from the White House.
The President said, “I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.”
Biden also called on states to suspend local fuel taxes and urged oil refining companies to increase production saying “this s a time of war.” Earlier this week Biden accused oil company executives of profiteering and “worsening the pain” for consumers.
“This is a time of war... not normal times,” Biden said Wednesday. “Bring down the price your customers pay at the pump. Do it now.”
During his remarks, Biden repeated the administration’s claims that gas prices in the U.S. and around the world have increased because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden reminded Americans that he warned there would be a cost to backing Ukraine in the war with Russia.
“The price of gas is up dramatically around the world, and by almost $2 per gallon in America, since (Russian President Vladimir) Putin began amassing troops on the border of Ukraine.”
While Biden is calling for the suspension of the federal tax on gasoline and diesel, it will take a vote in Congress to approve the measure.
Revenue from the federal gas tax funds the Highway Trust Fund. The fund is used to pay for transportation and mass transit projects. Some in Biden’s party have balked at giving up those funds by suspending the federal tax.
According to the White House, Biden believes other funds could be found to make up the estimated $10 billion it would cost to suspend the taxes.
“The President is also calling on Congress to make sure that a gas tax holiday has no negative effect on the Highway Trust Fund,” a White House statement reads. “With our deficit already down by a historic $1.6 trillion this year, the president believes that we can afford to suspend the gas tax to help consumers while using other revenues to make the Highway Trust Fund whole for the roughly $10 billion cost. This is consistent with legislation proposed in the Senate and the House to advance a responsible gas tax holiday.”
The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents a gallon. For diesel, the tax is 24.4 cents a gallon.
It will likely be an uphill climb for Democrats to pass a bill suspending the federal tax. In the evenly divided Senate, 60 votes would be needed to overcome any filibuster on a bill.
In February, Senate Democrats Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Mark Kelly of Arizona, and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, proposed their own bill that would suspend the gas tax through the end of the year.
However, the White House did not back the bill and Republicans at the time dismissed it as a stunt to deflect attention from rising gasoline prices.
Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee repeated that sentiment ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.
“This is nothing but a midterm election gimmick,” Hagerty said on Fox News. “They’re trying to buy votes right now with this. … And you know, a short-term gimmick like this is just nothing but that. Very shortsighted. It will not fix the inherent problem.”
Should a federal gas tax suspension bill pass, consumers would see a drop in gas prices of 18.4 cents a gallon. State gas taxes vary.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at the gas price-tracking app GasBuddy, said on Twitter that based on average consumption levels, the owner of a pickup truck could save $5.52 per week if there is a federal gas tax holiday. People with more fuel-efficient vehicles would save less: $3.68 a week if you drive a minivan, $2.94 for full-size cars and just $2.21 for compacts.
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