President Biden took aim at the opposing party Wednesday by falsely claiming that Republicans — rather than members of his own party — are preventing Congress from implementing his proposed federal gas tax holiday to blunt fuel costs.
“All Republicans do nothing [and] obstruct our efforts to lower your gas taxes,” Mr. Biden said in Cleveland, Ohio, during remarks about the economy and employer pension plans. “I proposed that, and I’ve asked the Congress to eliminate the federal gas tax for as long as this crisis goes on.”
Last month, the president called on Congress to temporarily suspend the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal tax that drivers pay at the pump for regular fuel and the 24-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel for three months.
But in reality it is top Democrats, not Republicans, on Capitol Hill who have revolted against the idea and prevented it from passing.
Many Democrats say it would be a drop in the bucket when prices are nearly $5 per gallon, or the savings may not be passed on to consumers, or it would take billions of dollars away from highway projects that were funded by last year’s major bipartisan infrastructure law.
The national average for a gallon of regular gas was $4.78 Wednesday, according to AAA. That’s down slightly from last month’s all-time high of $5.02, but still well above the $3.13 of one year ago.
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Rep. Peter DeFazio, Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been one of the most outspoken critics of a gas tax holiday. He described it as “well-intentioned but ill-conceived policy” when Mr. Biden first advocated for one in late June.
“I’m going to be working against it,” Mr. DeFazio said at the time. “I do not support suspending the gas taxes. You know what happens in this town? You suspend the tax, it’s gone forever. Because then what? This ends in September, [then Republicans say,] ‘Democrats are raising your taxes!’”
Other Democratic leaders have made it clear they do not intend to even hold a vote on the proposal, much less urge their caucus to support it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has characterized a gas tax holiday as a public relations stunt to win brownie points with constituents.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said while Mr. Biden had a “good objective” to lower prices, he questioned whether “in fact that will have the intended effect … and whether it will save consumers money.”
Democrats who do support the idea include those who are facing tough reelection battles. Progressives also generally back the proposal. However, they emphasize that they also want a windfall profits tax that would siphon off portions of Big Oil’s record profits to force lower prices.
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Similar to many of his Democratic colleagues, Mr. Biden on Wednesday again pointed his finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin for driving up fuel costs with a “Putin tax increase.”
But gas prices were already climbing before Russia’s military invaded Ukraine. Energy experts have said the conflict exacerbated a global supply shortage caused mainly by the pandemic.
“I’m fighting like hell to lower costs on things we talk about around your kitchen table,” Mr. Biden said.
— Joseph Clark contributed to this report.